Military Service Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 1945—Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 15 February 1945

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 96 No. 2

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[161]Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I listened very carefully to Deputy Corry, who, I expected, would refer to me as one who has no national record, good, bad or indifferent, as he referred to my colleague, Deputy Davin, but I can assure the House and Deputy Corry that if neither Deputy Davin nor Deputy Flanagan has a national record, they each have a record of good and loyal service to their constituents. The only charge brought against me at two general elections was that I had not a good record and that I took no part in the Civil War. I think I have that much to my credit, that I was not active at the time of the Civil War and, therefore, know nothing about it. So far as the Old I.R.A. are concerned, I am not an Old I.R.A. man, but I have every sympathy with those men who have been unjustly and unfairly treated.

Deputy Corry who has now left the House said on three occasions that it was our duty as Deputies to see that justice is done to these people. If Deputy Corry wants to see justice done, let him have sufficient pluck to vote for the select committee to inquire into these cases. If he is very anxious that the cases of his colleagues and supporters in East Cork be heard, he has an opportunity of displaying his sympathy with these men by voting for the proposal put forward by the Labour Party.

I would not have risen to speak but for Deputy Corry's remarks, but, as I am speaking, I might say that I have not had sufficient connection with or knowledge of applicants for pensions to know definitely whether or not they are entitled to pensions for their services, but I have very peculiar ideas so far as these pensions are concerned. I honestly believe that, during the troubled times in this country, the Old I.R.A. did not fight for pensions. I believe they fought for freedom and I further believe that they did not fight, risk their lives and sacrifice everything they possessed in order to change the letter-boxes from red to green or to [162] change the National Anthem from “God save the King” to “The Soldiers' Song”. I do not believe they fought to change the Union Jack to the Tricolour. They fought for the complete freedom of the Irish nation, from north to south, which freedom, so far as I, one Republican, am concerned, has not yet been won.

I think the Military Service Pensions Act of 1934 made very decent, respectable citizens out of bad revolutionists. The moment they got the pensions they kept their mouths shut and fell in with Fianna Fáil. I am sorry to have to admit that has been my experience. I honestly believe that the moment a certain section of the community got pensions they stood in firmly behind Fianna Fáil. Deputies like Deputy Corry remind me very much of Lanna Machree's dog—they are prepared to go a certain distance with the applicants and with the Bill. Deputy Corry said that he was going to vote for the Bill, and he still wants justice done. How is he going to have it both ways? In the village of Clough, Offaly, in my constituency, there are a number of Old I.R.A. men who, I believe, were on active service. Many times since I became a Deputy I have tried to get a definition of what “active service” is. I did come across a definition of it given in a debate in the British House of Commons, but I am not able to lay my hands on it now. As well as I remember, it was to this effect: any person who carried ammunition or any person who took part in an armed engagement such, for example, as an ambush. There is an individual in my parish in receipt of a pension to-day. His colleague, who fought side by side with him in the same engagements and qualified the other man for a pension, has had his application rejected. I raised a question about that case with the Minister for Defence last week. As regards those pensions, it is my honest opinion that instead of giving pensions the Government should have given some little recognition to every Old I.R.A. man for the services they had rendered. I would not make flesh of one and fish of another. I do not think this Bill is going to ease the situation. I suggest that legislation be introduced [163] to define what “active service” is. I suggest, too, that all these cases be reopened, and that every Old I.R.A. man who volunteered and gave service should get some recognition from the country, let it be big or small. In that way you will do away with all those grievances. Unless something on those lines is done you will have people with grievances ten or 15 years hence. I think the Pensions Act is a curse. They never had a right to be mentioned in 1924 or in 1934. It was not for money that people went out to fight. As far as the medals are concerned——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy will find it difficult to trace medals in this Bill.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  On the question of recognition of service, I understand that a number of my constituents have received medals for their service to the State. For instance, I could secure one of the medals given to one of my constituents and I could display it where I liked. I could say that I got it from the Minister because there is no inscription on it. The only thing that contains an address is the registered packet in which the medal is sent out.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  That is outside the Bill.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  That may be beside the point.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  It is not “may be”; it is.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  From the information at my disposal, I think that the Minister for Defence is one of the mildest members of the Government. He is a man with commonsense and intelligence in abundance. I wonder, therefore, when complaints of a serious nature are brought before him if he investigates them thoroughly? I have in my possession a letter dealing with the 1934 Act which contains very serious allegations. I understand that the Minister has received complaints [164] similar to those made in this letter. Serious charges are made against the administration of the Act. I wonder if the Minister will make reference to this when he is concluding the debate. This is an extract from a letter:—

“There are a large number of our members—that is an Old I.R.A. organisation—sending on sworn statements to the Minister for Defence. He is accepting some of them and rejecting others on the flimsy excuse that these sworn statements do not contain the additional evidence required by his Department. The absence of this additional evidence is due to the fact that the old brigade committee did not keep copies of the original application forms after they gave evidence before the Military Service Pensions Board. The evidence tendered by the verifying officer was put forward in the absence of the officers. We were never informed of that evidence. The Minister is shielding the verifying officers by refusing to submit the issue to an inquiry.”

The letter goes on to refer to the answer given by the Minister to Deputy O'Leary on the 16th October, when the Minister said that

“the records other than the findings of the Referee are highly confidential documents and the findings of the Referee are by statute binding on all persons and the tribunal.”

I would like to draw the Minister's attention to this particular fact, that it is common knowledge in the 6th Battalion are that Mr. Thomas Crofts compelled men to increase the number of men in their companies for the purpose of supplying records to the Military Service Pensions Board when he wanted to get a pension for Timothy O'Connor.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy is now introducing the name of a volunteer officer and making charges against him to which he has no opportunity of replying.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I think it is only right and fair——

[165]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy is speaking under privilege.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I think it is only right and fair, where we can produce in this House the slightest iota of corruption, that we are supposed to expose it as public representatives.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Traynor): Information on Oscar Traynor  Zoom on Oscar Traynor  On a point of order, may I point out to the Deputy what he should already know, and that is that, if he or anybody else can produce evidence to the effect that any person is receiving a pension under false pretences, he should bring the evidence to me and I will have it dealt with?

Deputies:  Hear, hear!

Mr. Traynor: Information on Oscar Traynor  Zoom on Oscar Traynor  The Deputy should not stand up here and accuse people who cannot answer for themselves, decent verifying officers who gave their time voluntarily—many of them neglecting their business in order to do so—in order that their comrades would get something that they were entitled to. It is a complete disgrace that statements of that kind should be made in this House, especially when every Deputy knows that any individual who has evidence has only to produce it to me and an immediate inquiry will be undertaken.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Minister's intervention was not a point of order; I take it to have been made by permission of the Deputy. The Deputy should be very careful not to introduce names of citizens who cannot defend themselves.

Mr. Furlong: Information on Walter Furlong  Zoom on Walter Furlong  The Deputy should withdraw the statement.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The man's name has been mentioned and cannot be withdrawn. That is the trouble.

Mr. Furlong: Information on Walter Furlong  Zoom on Walter Furlong  If there was an attack made in public to vilify me like that the man who made it would have to crawl to me on his belly afterwards and apologise.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Let Deputy Furlong take his medicine.

[166]Mr. Furlong: Information on Walter Furlong  Zoom on Walter Furlong  It would not be made outside this House.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Get the Minister to investigate it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Would the Deputy resume his seat? I cannot understand what Deputy Flanagan meant by “take his medicine” after making allegations against a citizen who cannot defend himself. That is the exact position.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I suppose that I am the first in this House during this debate to give any facts. I am sorry if I have to mention an outsider's name.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy may not mention an outsider's name. He will have to sit down if he attempts it again.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I bow to your ruling about the names, although I have the names here. Probably I should not have mentioned outsiders, but I did so in order that the Minister might have the full facts and be put on the right spot. Now, to save bother, I will hand the letter over to the Minister and let him investigate it and I will probably raise the question in the House at a later date, when I expect to get a reply.

Mr. Traynor: Information on Oscar Traynor  Zoom on Oscar Traynor  All I ask for is evidence—not a letter, which is not evidence.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  In order to satisfy the Minister, I will get the man concerned. He is prepared and willing to go on oath to prove that the statements contained in the letter are correct. I would be very slow, as a responsible Deputy for my constituency, to make allegations here which I could not stand over, and I am satisfied that the allegations contained in this letter can be stood over.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy is repeating those charges—ex parte statement against a man who cannot defend himself. It is an ex parte statement.

[167]Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Snr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Snr.  He knows nothing about the man.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  If I may carry on without interruptions from Deputies on the Fianna Fáil back benches, whose voices are seldom heard except when they get a hard pinch, I would say the Minister has made reference to verifying officers. I know some verifying officers: they are decent men, honest and reliable; but is the Minister aware that it is a well-known and established fact that a verifying officer in West Cork secured awards for eight members of a family, all relatives, none of whom had service in the I.R.A.? I wonder if Deputy Furlong would get up now and demand that the Minister should investigate that. As far as I am concerned, I believe in straight talk. Anything I have to say, I say it out and in this House. I make the statements openly and honestly and above board.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  But these are entirely irresponsible statements.

Mr. Furlong: Information on Walter Furlong  Zoom on Walter Furlong  It would not be the first thing he would do in public outside the House.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  These particulars have been forwarded to the Minister for investigation and, as far as I am informed by my correspondents, no investigation has taken place. The Minister, in supporting the verifying officers, has said that he will not allow the names of respectable and honest verifying officers to be lowered to depths of indecency, in other words. I have mentioned no names, good, bad or indifferent, but I can state for the Minister a number of cases in various parts of the country. For instance, in South Donegal—that may be Deputy Blaney's constituency or may not; I do not know what way that county is divided—you have a verifying officer who was originally expelled from the I.R.A. in 1921; he was afterwards drummed out of the National Army, in 1934; and was compelled to resign from the L.S.F. in 1940; and there is no doubt that that man was a verifying officer. Persons [168] who stated it are prepared to stand over it. I may add that he sold certificates of military service in South Donegal at the best price.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  It is quite possible that the man referred to would be identified from the Deputy's description, and again, he has no chance of replying. He is a man unknown evidently to the Deputy, under the circumstances, except by hearsay. The Deputy may not continue on that line.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Since it is the ruling of the Chair that I may not continue on that line, I would be very much obliged if the Minister would accept this communication, which I am going to place in an envelope and pass to him immediately. I hope he will have it investigated thoroughly, with the least possible delay.

As far as the Old I.R.A. are concerned in my own constituency—since I have dealt with Cork and Donegal and have to hand over the document to the Minister—I know of one case where a D.I. of the Republican Police in my own town, as good a man as ever took up a gun against a foreign power, any where is he to-day? In the County Home in Mountmellick. There is a similar case of an Old I.R.A. man in the County Home in Tullamore. Deputy Davin raised the point here that Old I.R.A. men are supposed to be given preference when jobs are going. I questioned the Minister for Land to-day, as to whether he had any complaints with reference to an estate divided in my constituency recently. I have a letter here to-day from that area, saying that three Old I.R.A. men were turned down, although they were prepared with finance and were equipped to work the land.

I am convinced that this Government has not done justice to the Old I.R.A. and I think that this Bill is practically useless. It is only legalising the payment of the pensions that, according to the law, have been paid illegally since 1934. The Government is only making a wrong right, through this Bill, and I am going to vote against it, [169] and will support the Labour Party's motion for a select committee to consider and report to this House on the matter.

I strongly advise all Deputies to vote against this Bill, in the interests of the Old I.R.A. and I am surprised at a man like Deputy Corry, to whom I have referred before as a “Lanna Machree's dog”. He says he has sympathy with the Old I.R.A., yet he will stand by the Minister and vote for this Bill. I am sure my colleagues, Deputy Davin and Deputy O'Higgins, and Fianna Fáil Deputies if they were here at the moment, would have to admit that there is nothing but discontent amongst the Old I.R.A. There was even a unanimous protest by Laoighis County Council last week, demanding that the Government should take the necessary action to see that the agreements with the Old I.R.A. were implemented. This Bill comes along just to rectify what has been done wrongly and gives no relief at all to the numerous applicants who are as entitled to pensions as the men who got them.

I was on the Fianna Fáil platform when I was with the Taoiseach down in Portlaoighise at a general election— before I was a candidate—and I can remember very well that he got up on the platform and said:—

“It is going to be our job in the future to see that the Old I.R.A. are properly treated and we are going to have the necessary legislation introduced and passed to see that all those Old I.R.A. will get recognition for their services.”

So far as I can see, in parts of my constituency prominent supporters of the Government have disablement pensions and they have other jobs. I wish them the best of luck. But, so far as the rank and file of the Old I.R.A. are concerned, I have told you where the D.I. was, namely, in the county home, and that is where the vast majority of those who gave service to this country are winding up—in the county home. They have been badly treated. That may not be the fault of the Minister, but it is the Government's fault. I advise the Government to withdraw the Bill and to introduce a new Bill, so that all [170] those people who applied for pensions and who were unsuccessful will have their cases reinvestigated. We should give the Old I.R.A. men some recognition for their service. Let us give pensions to those who have a right to get them or else give none at all.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  Certain members of this side of the House who have spoken have been taunted with having in their initial remarks said that this Bill is necessary and a good one and then, in the course of further remarks, set out to demolish or disagree with certain of its provisions. I propose to follow the same line in dealing with the amendment, because it can be said that at least it is practicable and it has been put forward and supported by reasoned arguments. But whether, in the present state of things, it is either feasible, or advisable, or adequate for its purpose is a matter for consideration by the Government, by the Minister and by the House. In view of the fact, as Deputy O Cléirigh stated last night, that a committee of the comrades of these men in this House has been considering this matter for some time, and that the whole House will, in Committee, have a chance of considering this Bill in the near future, I hold that this amendment is entirely unnecessary. Any Deputies who have practical suggestions can put them forward as amendments in due course and have them considered.

There can be no doubt that this Bill is necessary to legalise the procedure by the committee up to the present date. Whether or not the decisions of that committee were good or bad did not arise either in the course of the decisions or in the consideration of this Bill. Deputy Donnellan, in dealing with the matter last night, stated that this whole matter of pensions was used both by the Fine Gael Party in their day and by the Fianna Fáil Party in later years as political propaganda. I regretted very much to hear a Deputy with the good sound national background of Deputy Donnellan dealing with the claims of Old I.R.A. men in that fashion. His use of that matter for propaganda purposes has not been very happy. He has come into conflict [171] with his own Party and, I believe, even with his own ideals in dealing with the matter and there I shall let the matter stand.

Deputy O'Higgins, in a rather despicable personal attack on the Minister, held the mirror up to nature in a rather reverse way, and, in delivering a lecture to the Old I.R.A. men throughout the country, he said that they would need some example from the House in upholding the decisions of the court to make them conduct themselves as reasonable, decent citizens because, in their day, they had fought against constituted or constitutional authority, whether de jure or de facto he did not say. I hold that no organisation in this country, in their activities, took the same steps as did the Old I.R.A. to act in conformity with the ideas of constituted authority, because when a Government was set up in this country—I do not know what recognition Deputy O'Higgins would be prepared to give in retrospect to that Government considering his present views on the matter—when we constituted our own Government, as anybody connected with the I.R.A. knows, a member of the Army was appointed on the Sinn Féin Executive locally in order to keep contact with the constitutional procedure and administration of the Government set up in this country.

There has been a great lot of talk here about pensions and criticism of the amount of money they are costing the country. But nobody has stood up to say what has been saved to the country; what the action of these men in their day did to bring about a position which has saved millions year after year in allowing the normal work of this nation to proceed towards the ideals of the men who founded it. A pension is generally looked upon as a provision for the remainder of a man's life. But how can it be said that the few paltry pounds which have been awarded to men after ten years' volunteer service, ten years given in the service of the country, and then four more or even six more years in many cases before men got any employment, to augment their [172] other means of livelihood can really be described as a pension when they are really some recompense for the losses they sustained during years of risk and sacrifice and personal endeavour? How can men hold that those on this side of the House or those opposite, when in power, entirely neglected the interests of their comrades of the past?

Deputy MacEoin last evening gave a very reasoned résumé of this Bill, its provisions and implications. We, on this side of the House, are as jealous of our responsibilities to our comrades as those on any other benches or the people of the country generally. While we hold that this Bill is necessary, and I hold that it is, within the provisions of the Bill, to my mind, there is still an opening for the Minister or the Government to deal with a certain percentage of outstanding cases where through an error of judgment or otherwise, bad decisions were reached. I would ask the Minister and the Government not to close the door completely on those who are outside the scope of the Bill or those against whom the operation of the Act has been a hardship by reason of the fact that many years passed before their cases were considered. A large number of years passed and there were no definite records at the time, because men had something else to do. Men who were willing to risk their lives and men who might be called before their God without warning were not interested at that time in the keeping of records or anything of that kind. If errors have occurred, as they undoubtedly have, now is the time to remedy them. I have confidence in the Minister and in the Government that they will see to it that every possible opportunity is given to anyone with a reasonable case to have cases of hardship adjusted.

We have been taunted that more people fought in the Civil War against one another than fought against the Black and Tans. That is another despicable charge. Far more men would have fought in the Tan war had they the arms. Anyone connected with the movement knows that they had to capture to-day the guns with which [173] they were to fight to-morrow and that more arms came into the country and were available during the Civil War and that men who had not arms in the first war, and who wished for them, had the opportunity of being armed in the second campaign.

I do not wish to go into these things but I am jealous of the reputation of my comrades. They served Ireland well and they deserve well of Ireland. This is not a time to deal with individual cases, although I should like to do so. We must deal with the case broadly. I make a final appeal to the Minister, now that the matter has been opened, to consider outstanding cases. I am sure he will do so because he too played his part and acted with his comrades. I am sure he will consider outstanding cases that deserve to be reopened. No doubt there are many others who, perhaps, do not come within the provisions of this Bill and who feel that they are being put aside and that no consideration is being given to them. That is not the attitude of anybody towards them but this Bill was brought in for a specific purpose, to make some recompense to those who had spent years in national service. The purposes of the 1934 Act have been carried out with a fair measure of success and we all hope that when this Bill is finally disposed of those who deserve to come within its provisions will all be satisfied. I trust that there will be a reasonable approach from all sides of the House on the other stages of this measure.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  Like the last speaker, I also am jealous that the name of the Old I.R.A. should be kept above reproach. Some of the incidents that took place in this House to-day were despicable and absolutely hateful in the minds of any one of us. We would prefer that this debate did not take place at all. I agree that this is a clear issue. If you vote for this Bill, you are slamming the door on the Old I.R.A. men whose claims have not yet been settled. If you vote against the Bill you are at least making a decent effort to have these people's claims heard in the future. It is clear that most of the Fianna Fáil Deputies that I have heard speaking in this debate are more or [174] less making merely insignificant face-saving speeches. It is a clear issue— either to vote for this Bill or against it and remain silent for ever as regards the Old I.R.A.

This Bill is no credit to the Government. It is a mean Bill. It is a Bill that should be withdrawn. I admit that there were obstacles in the way of the present Government and of the past Government in meting out justice to the Old I.R.A. I believe the evil as regards this pension position was the inclusion of the period from 1922 to 1924 as a period qualifying for pension. It is my belief, and that of every decent man who fought and suffered, that the period from 1916 to 1921 was the real period in the fight for Irish independence. We fought then genuinely for Ireland. We did great work for Ireland. In the squabble from 1922 to 1924 we did not fight for Ireland, but against her. Therefore, these two years should have been excluded from the Pensions Act of both the first and the second Government. If that had been done, not one Truce man would dare to look for a pension before a board. Only the genuine I.R.A. of 1916 to 1921 would have their claims heard. Four years would have been enough to settle the whole pensions position and these men would be satisfied and happy and perhaps would have got bigger pensions. There was more money spent on pensions boards in this country than would have given decent pensions to our comrades for many years. We would have done good work if we had excluded the period 1922, 1923 and 1924 and had doubled the amount of pensions given to those who served from 1916 to 1921.

This business of having a hardy annual debate in connection with the Old I.R.A. is dirty, despicable and most distasteful to those who were in the movement. I do not like to see men, who never knew anything at all about the Old I.R.A., getting up and casting reflections on the name of the Old I.R.A. It would be far better to let the people who took part in the national fight settle this between them. They and they alone know what took place and what did not. At the [175] present moment, were it not for the commitments of many of our comrades, they would fling the pension and the medals back in the face of the Taoiseach and in the face of Deputy Mulcahy and all of us. They are sick and tired of this thing. Were it not that they are completely dependent, they would fling it back in the face of Parliament and they would be damn right. They are held up as a band of place hunters, job-seekers and pensioners. That is unfair and mean, coming from this generation or the past generation. Were it not for the heroic sacrifices of those 10,000 to 15,000 men, we to-day might be in the sorry plight of Poland, Belgium or France, laid waste and bare, and tens of thousands of our young men might be slaughtered on the fields of France and in the Cities of Dublin, Cork and Limerick. We should not talk here of the expense of meting out justice to these men. I do not care whether it costs £10,000,000 or £50,000,000, the fact is that the nation should meet it and meet it with its head up. We owe it to these men. We have no apology to make to anyone in any country for what our men suffered and for the little demand they are now making.

If the remaining few hundreds or thousands have not yet received justice they should be included in our list. We should not close our pensions legislation until we see that the last remnants of the Old I.R.A. get a fair measure of justice. I admit that not one of the Old I.R.A., from those who received the biggest to those who received the smallest pension, ever got a fair crack of the whip. In my county the pension ranges from £4 10s. to £12 in the majority of cases. It would not buy cigarettes for them. Then we are told that they are place hunters and pensioners. The true fact is that they never got a fair crack of the whip. Those unfortunate members of the Old I.R.A. who remained neutral and did not side with either political Party certainly went by the board. They are the men that I appeal for to-day. I know that in the first Pensions Act the men who were prominent in the political field were able to [176] get their claims heard. I know that under the present Government the men who are strong in the political field, during an election and before it, get their claims heard promptly. Those in the background, in the bog districts, who, perhaps, cannot read or write, who would not know what a form is, had no one to fight for them. Thanks be to God, in my brigade area we are in the position that we can put our finger on every man and woman who took part in the national movement. We have a complete record of every person and we are in a position to reject all those “chancers” who try to bounce in on the Pensions Act, thinking 20 years is a long time and that we might forget. In my county if we had 35 or 40 cases brought before the Pensions Board and if justice were meted out to them, we could close the book and say that the work was well done and there would be satisfaction for all.

I ask the Minister to withdraw this Bill and let himself, Deputy MacEoin and Deputy Mulcahy and a few other old warriors whom we all have trust in, no matter to what Party they belong, hammer out a satisfactory solution of this problem. There is no need to wade through 40,000 applications. We in the brigade areas are in a position to reject the people who do not deserve consideration. We can bring in a list over which we can stand, and we are prepared to take the Bible and swear on every case.

We had a huge meeting recently of the Old I.R.A., all our colleagues in the county. We were in the unfortunate position that we had to establish a benevolent fund in order to meet the distress in our county. We had to organise concerts, whist drives and ceilidhthe in order to get funds to bury some of our colleagues, to put tombstones over others, to help the dependents of those who died and to take others out of the poor-house. It is an unfortunate position, 23 years after a native Parliament was established, to have to make provision in that way for the men who helped to win our freedom.

It is the duty of the State to look after the soldiers who fought for freedom, [177] to help those who are alive, as well as the dependents of those who died. No adequate provision has been made in that connection. I will not blame this Government. Perhaps it has done just as much as the last Government. Neither of them did a hell of a lot—there is no question about that. They did not do what they should have done. There is dissatisfaction in every camp.

As regards the Old I.R.A., these men are fast dying out and there are many of them in miserable circumstances. Some had to go to America and there are many working in the pits in Britain, getting a living from the men whom they forced to leave this country via the North Wall, never to come back again. We have not given these men proper consideration for all they went through.

The young men of the present day regard us as a lot of “chancers”. They never consider what our men went through. I went through a fair amount, but not nearly as much as the Minister or Deputy MacEoin or Deputy Mulcahy. I was doing penal servitude in a Scottish prison called Perth. There I had a collar around my neck, a rope and chains, and I had to pull a plough and harrow and other farming implements just the same as a horse. It was one of the most humiliating experiences I ever had. Other men had to do the same, but after a few months we smashed our way through and got our rights. We had to plough 40 acres of land. If you told that to young men of the present day they would cock their noses and laugh at you. However, it is on record that I and the men imprisoned with me had to plough 40 acres. There were five of us on each side of the plough and a warder in the middle. We did not see meat or soup or a daily newspaper for 12 months. We were compelled to work with 350 criminal lunatics; we were kept with those men in the same field.

There is very little said about these things to-day. Unfortunately, because of the split in our ranks, all these things are forgotten and there is no proper record of them. Our men were degraded, despised and looked down [178] upon. If we could but resurrect the memories of those days we might bring the young men of to-day to a proper sense of responsibility. Think of what Terence MacSwiney suffered, dying in agony and torture when he could have lived a brilliant life with every comfort. He sacrificed his life so that Ireland might be free. This Parliament was secured for us through the sufferings of the Old I.R.A., yet to-day we have young men jibing at these men.

I know there are men on the opposite benches, as well as on these benches, who are clean and decent. We have black sheep on both sides, perhaps—they are in every country in the world—but there are men on the opposite benches who have made sacrifices for Ireland—good, honest men. That is why I hate to see any difference on this issue. The Minister, for whom I have every respect, should make another effort and not force the Old I.R.A. to divide on this. It is a terrible thing to have men voting for a Bill in which they do not believe. I know the conscience of every Old I.R.A. man is pricking him; he is in a maze. Were it not for the Whip, there are many men on the opposite benches who would vote against this Bill.

The Bill slams the door on the remnants of the Old I.R.A. I hope the Minister will not close the door. The Fianna Fáil Deputies say that this is only legalising the pensions. I defy any man to take the few pounds off those who have it. There is no need to legalise anything. It is all rot to talk like that. Fianna Fáil Deputies have said very little on this. There are glaring cases in every county. Fully 90 per cent. of the men who followed the Treaty side in my county were given pensions. Perhaps the pensions were somewhat niggardly, but still they were granted to them. Some men who took the irregular side, as they called it, did their duty by de Valera and Fianna Fáil. They fought in the Civil War and they had the same service as the men who happened to get pensions. I hold that if the men who followed me got pensions, those other men are equally entitled to pensions. One of those men was [179] beaten up by the Black and Tans and he spent some years in a mental home. When he came out he gave loyal service to de Valera and for his loyalty he lost his pension. That man has a genuine grievance. Other men have been paid since 1924, and surely the men who fought loyally on the side of the Fianna Fáil Government should get equal treatment.

Under the 1924 Act there was a fair definition of active service. If a man blocked a road or went with despatches or paraded or drilled, it was all counted as service. If a man was mobilised for an ambush and he happened to be on another road while the ambush was on he was given every consideration. Under the 1934 Act none of these things counted as service. You would have to prove that you actually shot a policeman or blew a barracks to bits before your case would be considered. The Act is too rigid and its terms should be more liberal. Give equal justice to all the men who were connected with the movement.

There is another aspect with which I would like to deal. It is in connection with rotation work on roads and pits and bogs. It is a terrible state of affairs that if these men get a little work under a public authority, their pensions of £6, £8 or £10 a year are cut. I say that is a disgrace and a shame. The little money given to these men should be given openly and above board and should not be subject to any reductions whatever. It should be given as a present to them for service to Ireland, and, if it were, there would be more respect for the Government and for the Opposition. At the moment, there is no respect for anybody. The people feel that we are a band of frauds who spend our time talking here while our comrades die in the poor-house, their names forgotten and their children in misery.

Let us stop all that, and then we of the Old I.R.A., who claim respect and should have got respect, will have respect for the House. We will lead the younger generation, and the older generation who do not understand us to-day, along a path of honour, peace [180] and decency, and, if we can do that, we shall be doing something for Ireland. It is only through respect for the Old I.R.A. that the country will be saved. In a few years, we will be faced with the position in which we shall have to find work for many more of our people. It is then that the shining lights of the Old I.R.A. will step forward, as they did in the past, and, if we give justice to these men, we will have men who will step into the gap, as into the gap we shall have to step again, whether we like it or not.

Mr. Maguire: Information on Bernard John Maguire  Zoom on Bernard John Maguire  This Bill aims at bringing us back to the position which obtained before the recent court decision. There has been a good deal of discussion here as to the advisability of voting for or against the Bill, but I think it is of little importance in what direction we move. If we accept this amending Bill, we find that there is merely a recognition of the awards made. These awards will be legalised, but beyond that, no change will take place. If we allow the present position to continue without amendment, it will be open to any applicant whose claim has been refused by the Referee to apply to the courts and get a mandamus order entitling him to a rehearing of his case by the Referee personally. In the absence of any new evidence, I wonder what are the prospects of such an applicant securing another decision?

In this connection, a question arises which I should like the Minister to explain. This Bill prohibits any new applications to the court for mandamus orders, but I assume that those cases which have already gone through the court and in respect of which awards were made in their favour, will be heard by the Referee or by any of the other officials. These are now authorised to hear cases, but I do not think that, in fairness to the court, they should be asked to rehear these cases on which they have already given a decision. I do not think it fair either to those applicants who got a judgment from the court permitting them to have their cases reheard. I do not know whether the Minister suggests that a new board might be [181] constituted, even temporarily, which could give an impartial hearing to those cases which are resubmitted under peculiar circumstances.

If we allow the present position to continue, we find ourselves up against the fact that a number of pensioners will not be entitled to further payments. I suppose that, legally, that is true and, if we refuse the Bill, no further payments can be made to a substantial number of pensioners, but, on the other hand, what benefit will accrue to those whose cases have already been rejected? Will the Bill as it stands improve their position? I do not think it will, and in the circimstances it is difficult to decide which would be the better line of action.

It is not the 1934 Act or this Bill which really concerns the people. What has really given rise to serious dissatisfaction, not only amongst I.R.A. applicants but generally throughout the country, is the fact that there is clear and patent evidence that equal and even-handed justice did not operate in the administering of the Act. It is fairly generally held—I have heard no responsible person make any suggestion to the contrary—that the various awards which have given rise to dissatisfaction with the Act are not due to any action based on prejudice of any of the officials or Ministers concerned. It has arisen very largely by reason of technical difficulties which various applicants were unable to understand. It is there the trouble lies, and I think it is time the Minister realised that, in respect of the Act of 1934, there have been numerous incidents which have not been conducive to public confidence. They have largely undermined public confidence, not only in the Act but in the Government, and probably will in future Governments, too.

In these circumstances, there is a very strong case for reviewing the Act in the light of the experience at the disposal of the Minister in order to make it conform to the reasonable needs of those entitled to pensions. It is not too much to ask the Government to ensure that those applicants who had difficulties to contend with, which, [182] owing to their position in life, they failed to understand, will not now suffer because of their ignorance of technicalities in relation to making and proving their cases. The Referee who was carefully selected to administer this Act was a man with long experience of the law but we find that, for expediency purposes, perhaps, or through ignorance, he was wrong in his interpretation of the technicalities of the measure he was administering.

If he was not able properly to interpret what he was administering, then surely applicants with no experience whatever of court procedure, with no experience of what was required for the proper submission of their cases, must be held blameless and measures should be adopted to help them in their difficulties. Retrospective legislation is bad. It is bad because it must undermine public confidence in Governments, but if retrospective legislation is introduced to save a Government, then how much more necessary is it that legislation should be made retrospective where necessary to safeguard the individual. No individual is as strong as the State. According to Christian standards, and this country has been established on such standards, the weak should surely have first preference and support from the State as against the strong.

The Minister, in his opening speech yesterday, referred, amongst other things, to the amount of money—it struck me as being very big—which is paid out under the Pensions Act. He also referred to some of the earlier troubles which the Government had to contend with, and said it was decided that applicants, when they failed to satisfy the board, would be notified of the grounds on which they had failed to do so. That was valuable information for the applicants. They were given a certain number of days in which to supply further details. The Minister went on to say that, as the number of applicants grew, the board found it impossible to continue that practice of notifying applicants of the grounds on which they failed to satisfy the board, and the practice was dropped. Taking these two statements [183] together, I should like to know if the dropping of that practice was adopted as an expedient to save trouble and expense. Were the Minister and the Government alarmed by the growing number of applications? Was the sum that was being paid out so much in excess of what they had estimated that they were going to safeguard the revenues of the State at the expense of the applicants? I may be putting a wrong construction on the Minister's statements, but surely such a thing as that was never visualised when the Act was under discussion. But, taking these two statements together, if that is the reason why many applicants have been refused pensions—the fact that they were unaware of the grounds on which they had failed to make their case and that it was an expedient for the purpose of saving time and money —then I hold that the Act was not properly administered. I say that it was wrongly and unfairly administered.

This Bill, and the decision of the court, in no way affect those whose claims were rejected. If we leave the decision of the court standing on its own, we have the position that existed hitherto. Each person who wishes to have his case reheard can have a rehearing. He will probably have the same evidence read over again before the Referee, so that on the whole his prospects of success in the future will be no better than they were in the past. The court case was certainly a triumph for the lawyer who conceived the plan of bursting the Pensions Act. By his genius he was able to see a loophole in it. But, while the case was a triumph for him, there was no triumph for the men who were the disallowed applicants for I.R.A. pensions.

Deputy McCarthy, a short time ago, mentioned that Deputy Mícheál O Cléirigh indicated, when speaking last night, that a committee in the Government Party was examining this whole problem, and that the House would shortly have an opportunity of discussing it. If that is so the House may very well be asked to accept that position as holding a promise of real [184] redress for applicants for pensions. I assume that the members of the Government Party are as keenly watching and striving for an improvement in the whole body of the Bill as are the members of any other Party or group of individuals in the House. If the Minister, when concluding, says that such a committee is examining this problem, with his sanction, with a view to making suggestions at a later stage, then I think that the ambition of everybody here should be satisfied, and that the aims and ambitions of applicants may very reasonably be met.

The decision to pay pensions to the Old I.R.A. was one of the things that met with universal approval from the general public. The proposal won unanimity from all sections and classes. There is disquiet, distrust, anxiety and vexation, due to the fact that pensions have been disallowed to men in the various districts of the country whose service records are well known. The public are satisfied that an injustice has been done to those men. Let no Minister feel that he is discharging his duty if he fails to listen to the complaints which have been made in recent years by public men condemning the action of the Pensions Board in its administration in so far as its refusal to grant pensions to applicants in every part of the country was concerned. To the knowledge of the local people, and after all they are the best judges, the applicants who were disallowed pensions were justly entitled to them. It would be a dangerous thing if the Minister were to fail to listen to those sound warnings and to make the redress needed. If he fails to do so, then some subsequent Government will handle this pensions problem and justice will be done. There is a great call for that redress, and justice demands it.

I cannot understand why there is so much beating about the bush and so much delay in approaching this problem. Possibly expense has something to do with it, but there are things that matter in the country as much as expense. Sometimes we find ourselves landed in heavy expense which benefits nobody, as has happened in [185] recent years, when we have had to spend a lot of money in providing an Army and dealing with the present emergency. All that expense has been of a defensive nature and probably will have very good results. However, at the moment we are dealing with a more deep-rooted problem than any other.

We are dealing with people who, in the years when they participated in active service to their country, had formed a unity that I suppose never had any parallel in this country. There was a comradeship established which was very deep-rooted and there was willingness to make sacrifice. These people have grown into middle age, and some of them into old age, and at this juncture, by a miscarriage of justice—anyhow, by the administration of the 1934 Act—their whole past has been embittered and the loyalty that existed between them in days gone by is now broken. We are sending into old age people who are embittered because they feel that an injustice has been done to them. They look in various directions and ask various people why that is so, but there is no direct answer. It is not that the people do not desire to give them justice, it is not that the public are afraid of the expense involved; it is due to an Act of 1934 which, whatever good intention it had, was very misleading and unfortunate.

The onus rests upon the Minister responsible to alter that Act, so as to bring within it every range of service that could reasonably justify an award. Let us not go on creating bitterness and sending people into old age embittered and, perhaps, breeding in a new generation a bitterness against the State because of the discrimination made against their fathers or mothers —in their not being treated as well as they should be treated or as well as a neighbour was treated. Instead of that bitterness, let us safeguard and preserve a more loving and more cherished memory of the days that are gone. If for that reason alone, the Minister would be well advised to tackle this problem and deal with it in such a way as to mete out justice—and there is nothing more that we demand.

Mr. Colley: Information on Harry Colley  Zoom on Harry Colley  The court proceeding in [186] this case simply dealt with a question of procedure and did not attempt to decide the claims of the applicants. That procedure has been in operation for eight or nine years and was never questioned until some disappointed applicants engaged lawyers who went through the Act and the procedure with a fine-comb and found this flaw, even after certain judges of the High Court had pronounced it correct. I would like to point out that the Referee who adopted this procedure was also a judge and that he must have felt himself entitled to adopt it or, naturally, he would not have done so since, being a lawyer, he would know that it would invalidate the work he was doing. Because of the court decision there is now a danger, to say the least of it, that all the awards made under the 1934 Act will become invalid. That has been questioned here, but we do not want this to become just a nice, juicy little bit for the lawyers and to have every question in connection with an I.R.A. pension thrashed out in court.

Surely, it is the correct thing for all friends of the I.R.A.—and we have heard such expression on all sides of the House—as the first step, to ensure that those men who were given pensions will be allowed to continue to receive them? If this Bill is not passed, I understand the position is that these pensions must be suspended. I want to put before the House the position of those men, if that happens. As has been mentioned by various speakers, those men have suffered severely for their country's sake, but they have now got some recognition and have ordered their lives in that way. Many of them have set out to buy houses, while others have taken out insurance policies on the strength of their pensions and done other things like that. Are we, because of a technical flaw, to put those men into the position that they must go back over their claims again, that they must have them ruled out and go through the whole investigation once more, some 20 or 25 years after the events have happened?

Those who have had experience in the last ten years of dealing with pensions claims under the 1934 Act [187] know the difficulty that arose in trying to verify genuine men—because of deaths, because of the lapse of time, because of the difficulty in remembering all the various incidents, and so on. All these things had to be sworn to on oath and, naturally, people had to be very careful. Now a further ten years will have elapsed before these men will be heard, if this should happen, and the difficulties will be intensified. I remember that, about the end of 1935, there were some 50,000 applications in under the 1934 Act and I was speaking to an official who had to deal with the Disability Pensions Act. He told me at that time that, from his experience of the way the Act was being dealt with then—which was that every case was heard by the Referee, personally—it would take 60 years to hear the claims. At that time we were beginning to realise how slow the procedure was and it was at the request of the men concerned that the present procedure was adopted. Representations were made that the procedure should be quickened or most of the men would be dead before their claims would be heard. If a man dies before his award is sanctioned by the Department of Finance his claim dies with him, so that it is very necessary that the position should be dealt with at once. Many of the men may not be satisfied with their awards, but they certainly would be much more dissatisfied if, because of a flaw for which they have no responsibility, they were to be deprived of their awards altogether and to have their whole lives upset. It would be a scandal if the House put these Old I.R.A. men in that position. We must remember that, if all these claims were to be gone through again, whether they were allowed or disallowed in the past, there is no guarantee that any man will do better in the future than he has done in the past.

Statements have been made about the method of hearing claims. For myself, I may say that my claim was heard under this procedure that is now condemned. I went before men whom I did not know, but I was treated just as well, I am sure, as I [188] would be treated in any court. I was taken through the statements in my form and I was asked questions about them. Then I was allowed to state anything else that I wished to put forward and it was all taken down. I had no fault to find with that procedure. I am sure exactly the same thing would have happened to me in any court.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  Did your claim get through?

Donnchadh O Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  It deserved to get through.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The Fianna Fáil Party, of course.

Donnchadh O Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Not at all; his record as a soldier.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The men we are fighting for are in the same position.

Donnchadh O Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  He was in the Dublin Brigade.

Mr. Colley: Information on Harry Colley  Zoom on Harry Colley  Undoubtedly a number of applicants are discontented because their claims were turned down. There is no question but that a big number of these people would have to be turned down in any event. They were turned down because even their application forms did not show that they had any claim under the Act. A large number of them, I am sure, will never be able to be brought under the Act. In taking the action he did, the Referee had a good precedent in the fact that about 8,000 applicants under the 1924 Act were turned down departmentally; they never even reached the board of assessors. Under this Act, I understand that every case, whether an award was made or not, ultimately reached the Referee and had to get his signature. If every one of these 60,000 applicants were to be heard again, could we possibly ask the country to stand the cost? The proceedings would probably go on for 30 years and might even go on longer, except for the fact that the hand of death might, in the ordinary course of events, wipe out an enormous number of the applicants. The Minister stated that it would take [189] 16 years to rehear the cases. In my opinion, it would take another ten years even to hear 20 per cent. of the disappointed applicants if they had to be heard in person by the Referee. We will have to have some sense in connection with this matter.

There are undoubtedly a number of cases of men who gave service in the past, but who have been ruled out on technical points. With other Deputies, I appeal to the Minister to make some provision for these cases. These men will, of course, have up to the end of this year to appeal, but Section 8 (5) of the Act, which deals with appeals, states that there must be additional evidence not previously available. I appeal for a less stringent interpretation of that section in the future than has been given to it in the past. In Dublin we had the case of a man who wanted to get a certain man for reference, but he could not find him, although the man was in the city. Due to changes that had taken place, the man could not be traced. Later on that man was found and, when the appeal came on, it was held that the man was previously available because he happened to be in the city, although he could not be found at the time. We should not have that redtape interpretation of the section. I appeal for a broader interpretation to be given to the section and, if that is done, I think that the big majority of the cases of genuine I.R.A. men with which we are concerned and which have been ruled out will be able to be got over.

There are some men who, because they are not well educated, found great difficulty in connection with these appeals. If some method were adopted by which those men could be interviewed again, not necessarily by the Referee, they would be able to make their cases far better in that way than they would in writing. In fairness to them I think that should be done.

I also want to refer to Section 20 of the Act in conjunction with Schedule 3. That is the Schedule under which reductions from pensions of local and public employees are made. Some time ago the Minister [190] gave an undertaking to bring this matter before the Government and, later on, stated in the House that the matter was under consideration. It is a pity that the opportunity provided by this Bill was not taken to deal with that matter. On the whole, I believe that if the decision of the court were applied all round, it would cause grave injustice to the flower of the Old I.R.A. I support the Bill.

Mr. Byrne: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  I make an appeal which I believe will have the wholehearted support of every member of the House. I am not going to criticise the Bill, but I will ask the Minister to reconsider a letter of mine of November, 1944, to which he replied on the 25th November, 1944, concerning Old I.R.A. men who joined the first National Army and who have not broken their service to this day. Had they left the Army for a day or two and applied for an I.R.A. pension they would have been fully qualified and eligible for it but, because they remained in the Army and did not break their service, their pension was not paid. Had they gone into other Government employment they could have drawn their I.R.A. pension in addition to whatever wages they could earn. I understand that there are about 51 Old I.R.A. men in the National Army to-day who consider themselves eligible for the I.R.A. pension, having got their certificates and having qualified in every way. They feel that there is a little injustice done to them, that they have missed something. They missed an opportunity. Because they are in the Army and are qualifying for a small Army pension, they are not eligible now, apparently, to get the I.R.A. pension for which they qualified by their valuable services. I would ask the Minister to take steps to remedy the injustice being done to these men.

I have already written to the Minter in this matter. I would ask him to remedy the injustice either by having the relevant section of the 1924 Act suitably amended so as to permit of the payment of pensions to them in the same way as pensions are being paid to persons in all other Government [191] services, or by having the necessary legislation passed to authorise the payment on their discharge from the Army of gratuties equivalent to the pensions being withheld from them during their Army service. I do not think that it is a controversial matter or that it would create any dissent.

Had these men gone into ordinary employment, or into the Civil Service, they would have got their pensions, because civil servants who were in the I.R.A., if the means test allows them to get it, are paid their pensions. A man who remains in the National Army does not get the benefit of the Pensions Act. I feel confident that every member of the House would willingly give these men the pensions which they earned and that, if possible, they will press their claims on the Minister so that these men will not leave the National Army, having completed their 21 years' service, with merely the small Army pension that is given to anyone leaving the National Army after 21 years' service, regardless of whether he had I.R.A. service or not.

Their case has been put to me very forcibly. I understand that nearly every member of the House knows at least one of the men concerned and would act as a certifying officer. These men should get the benefit of the Act so that they would not leave the Army, having served during the troubled period of 1915 and 1916 and having continued to serve the country in the National Army, with merely the Army pension. They feel that a very great injustice is being done to them and I appeal to this House to remedy it. I feel confident that if it lies in the Deputies' power they will see that these men will not be discharged without a pension equivalent to their I.R.A. pension combined with whatever pension they get for their service in the Defence Forces.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  It has been said by Deputies on the opposite side that in this Bill the Government seeks to overrule a decision of the Supreme Court. I do not think that suggestion will be taken seriously by anybody. It is well [192] known that wherever you have a decision of the courts which discovers what might be called a flaw in any enactment it is the practice, if it is of sufficient public importance, for the Minister concerned to come to the House and ask for an amending Act. That is what the Minister is now doing. In considering the public importance of the matter, we have only to refer to the number of men who have got pensions under this Act. I am satisfied that there is a grave doubt as to whether the Minister is entitled to continue paying these pensions or not. Other Deputies have said that there is no doubt. Others have gone so far as to say that the payment would be absolutely invalid. I am not prepared to give a definite opinion either way but I do say that there is considerable doubt and I think the Minister would be completely failing in his duty if he did not come here immediately to ask this House to pass a Bill to make valid the continuance of those pensions.

Whatever may be said about the procedure adopted under this Act, we have the undoubted fact that 11,000 men got their pensions. The procedure that was adopted cannot have been designed to be destructive or obstructive, to prevent men getting pensions. It is quite clear that everything was done in the interests of the men who had fought against the British forces in this country. Every encouragement was given to them. If there had been strict application of the rules of evidence and if the procedure adopted in the courts had been followed, it is quite clear to me that the claims could not have been dealt with at anything like the speed that was achieved. To give just one instance: The applicant, generally, was asked to state the names of the people who could verify his claim and produce evidence from them. The Referee accepted evidence in the form of a letter signed by the party named. That could not be done in a court of law. One could not go into a court of law and hand up a letter. One could not even hand up a doctor's certificate. If you wish to have evidence given in your favour the evidence must be given in person. Had that rule obtained at this tribunal, the claims [193] could not have been dealt with at anything like the speed that was achieved. I am not going to suggest the number of years it might have taken, but I do say that it would have taken quite a long time.

This Bill deals only with the question of making valid the pensions that have been granted and, for that reason, I think the House should pass it and should pass it quickly. I was rather disappointed, however, that the Minister did not avail of the opportunity which this Bill provides to make some provision to modify or repeal the sections of the Pensions Acts which provide that pensions payable to persons in public employment shall be abated on a sliding scale. I consider that those provisions are wholly unjust. Those who are in public employment are paid for the work they do. It cannot be stated that they get anything more than remuneration for their services and there is no reason whatever why they should be deprived of the whole or part of their pension because of the fact that they happen to be working for a county council or the Government or other public body. I think the Minister might still, before this Bill passes through all its stages, bring in a section either to modify or repeal those provisions. I am satisfied that there will not be any opposition from any Deputy. I think Deputy MacEoin expressed his approval of such a course. Whether the Minister brings it into this Bill or not, I suggest it is a matter which should not be forgotten and that this and all the other outstanding points in regard to Old I.R.A. pensions should continue to receive active consideration. I suggest that this Bill should be passed without delay.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Snr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Snr.  In my opinion, serious consideration is not being given by those who are opposing the Bill to the real issues that are at stake. We have had a court decision. As a result of that court decision we have to introduce legislation to do a number of things—legislation, for instance, for the purpose of making sure that 11,554 people who are in receipt of [194] pensions are in receipt of them legally. To my mind the legislation is more important than all that. Lawyers give peculiar opinions at times, but lawyers in this case have got hold of something where there are about 60,000 applicants and every one of those applicants can be brought into court and given a rehearing on the basis of the present decision. But what is going to be the ultimate outcome for those 60,000 men? I do not believe, nor I am sure is anybody in this country satisfied, that there are 60,000 genuine applicants. But supposing there are, and if the 60,000 are brought up here at their own expense, brought before the Referee, are refused pensions and are sent back, how will those unfortunate men be affected? You will leave them £5, £6, or £10 per head poorer, and I think that would be a very low estimate. We must consider the matter from that point of view.

Certain statements were made by individuals in the House. Those people availed of the opportunity of this discussion to blackguard good, decent Irishmen outside the House. I rise principally to say that I resent Deputy Flanagan or any other Deputy hiding behind his privileged position instead of facing up to the men who faced open bayonets, open rifles and machine-guns. Deputy Flanagan, like some other Deputies here, has not given consideration to how, for instance, the verifying officers were selected. I am not prepared to say whether or not certain people are entitled to pensions. That is not my job, and neither is it Deputy Flanagan's. There is a Referee to decide that matter and he gives his decision, rightly or wrongly. These verifying officers were appointed by the brigade committees, the committees set up by the men themselves to represent them and to put forward the best evidence they could, to make their case in a particular court.

Then we observe the cheek and audacity of Deputy Flanagan, in a position of privilege, where he is free from those men because they cannot get an equal opportunity of vindicating their characters. The Deputy is [195] free from a number of other things. He tried to blackguard those men. If he were making statements about men in his own constituency, about whom he might know something, I might be satisfied; but he made certain statements about Corkmen. Now there are, on the benches on both sides of this House, people who are in a better position to speak about what was done in Cork, and there was no occasion to go to any weak-kneed individual from another constituency, miles away from Cork, to make a case.

I have listened to Deputy Davin making the statement that he would give no pension to anybody who took part in the Civil War.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I said I would give no pension to persons who fought in the Civil War against their own fellow-countrymen.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Snr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Snr.  I took a note of what the Deputy said. I also listened to Deputy Giles making a similar statement. The only thing about Deputy Giles is that, to my mind, he made a very definite statement when he said: “I fought against Ireland.” He made that statement and it will be seen in the official records.

Are we going to deny that this Bill is brought in mainly because of the fact that there was a Civil War and that there were men who fought in another war as well as the Civil War and that both are covered by the Bill? How can men across the House say that we are not interested in those who fought in the Black-and-Tan and the Civil Wars? We are interested in all men who took up arms and left their homes and went out to fight for what was, in their opinion, the freedom of this country. What we are not satisfied about is—let it be the interpretation that is put on active service or something else—that there are certain people in this country who should come under this Bill but who are not coming under it. It is the duty of every individual in this House, irrespective of Party, to try to see in what way we can cover up those particular people. [196] We should try to come forward with some reasonable suggestion, not bringing in any such number as 60,000, and settle this matter satisfactorily. Our job is to cover a certain number of people not covered by this Bill.

I heard some Deputy talking about a committee of our Party. Every member of our Party is interested in this matter and has given serious consideration to it. Members of our Party are satisfied that any man who gave service in this country that was of good military value should definitely come under this Bill. The problem is, how are we to bring them under it? One interpretation of “active service” has been given. Is it the right one? Is there anything else we should advise the Minister to do? Why do we not do it now? Why do the Labour Party talk about setting up a committee to do something? We have a Committee of this House where everyone of us can express his opinions and where any one of us who has any reasonable or sound argument to put forward can put it forward. I guarantee that we are quite prepared to give every consideration to any suggestion put forward for bringing within the scope of the Bill those men who, we believe, are entitled to pensions.

I sat and listened yesterday, not for the first time, to people trying to throw a could over this issue. I listened, I am sorry to say, to a Deputy from my own constituency, Deputy Donnellan, criticising Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for having brought in the 1924 and 1934 Acts. That criticism was very well answered by Deputy McCarthy, but I am not surprised at a man of Deputy Donnellan's type making such a statement. Every common-sense man in the country knows that it was not for the purposes alleged that this Government or the old Cumann na nGaedheal Government brought in these Acts. Raising a matter of this kind—and the Deputy will discover it for himself later on because the attitude he has adopted will not be as helpful as he thinks it will be—and making it a political issue at the Galway County Council is not going to help the men looking for pensions. Trying to put me or somebody else like me in an [197] awkward corner is not going to help people with grievances in relation to this Bill.

The only assistance which these men can get from that type of individual will be given when he forgets all that kind of tripe and comes down to realities, when he, as I said, tries to find out what is wrong and tries to remedy what is wrong. That is our job, and if we can do it, we will help these people, but trying to convince people that these measures were brought in for the purpose of making political capital will get nobody anywhere. Everybody in the House should make up his mind now to try to decide what amendment can be made in the Bill which will cover a number of outstanding cases of men who are definitely entitled to pensions. People may have got pensions who are not entitled to them. People have often got court decisions, and perhaps the court decisions might have been wrong, but nevertheless everybody had to abide by them. There is, however, a remedy, as the Minister pointed out to Deputy Flanagan. If anybody is wrongfully in receipt of a pension, there is a way of dealing with him— send in the information and he will be dealt with straightaway.

I heard Deputy Donnellan refer to some individual in County Galway. The Deputy knows nothing at all about the Pensions Act, or he would not have made the statement he made in that connection. He inferred that somebody in Galway got a pension, although he had not got 40 men under him, but that has nothing to do with the award of a pension. The Referee decides that a man is entitled to a Grade A, B, C, D or E pension and the things alleged here have nothing in the world to do with it. The Deputy's statement shows how little people know about these matters. Men have got pensions under different headings, but not on the basis of the number of men serving under them, and men have got the highest rank in the country without having any men serving under them. Talk of that kind is merely designed to draw the political red herring across the path.

Let us make an effort to see [198] what way we can solve what is left to be done. This Bill is absolutely essential in order to cover the various interests I have spoken of. There is no use in bringing men up from the country for court decisions if eventually they are not going to get pensions, and, to my mind, we could have no better system of deciding pensions than the system we have had. Every man who went before the board went before men who had knowledge of what I.R.A. men had to suffer and went through, but if you set up a referee, or two, three or a dozen referees, all of whom are to be judges, I do not know how much experience of I.R.A. service they will have, but one thing I am quite satisfied about is that they will give none of us the same assistance as was given by members of the present board.

The interrogations officers were there to help applicants. They put no stumbling blocks in their way, but gave every assistance to them, whereas, if a man has to appear before somebody who wants to make things awkward and who asks him questions about the 6th, 8th or 10th period, he can be puzzled and may have to go home like a dummy. We can get a satisfactory way of dealing with this problem by putting forward a reasonable amendment to the Bill, or a reasonable suggestion to the Minister, as to the way in which we believe border-line applicants will be covered. I believe there is nothing to stop us having all these cases dealt with in a few months, if we can only find a way to deal with these people who have not qualified and who should qualify.

Mr. Cafferky: Information on Dominick Cafferky  Zoom on Dominick Cafferky  I am rather reluctant to take part in this debate, due to the fact that I have not yet completed my apprenticeship to politics, and I think it is very necessary to have one's apprenticeship completed, especially after listening to the various speakers, who, in one way or another, have tried to camouflage the whole position and to save their faces before their constituents. I have listened to the speech of Deputy Killilea. He referred to Deputy Donnellan and said that he was trying to make propaganda out of this Bill. He also said that Deputy [199] Donnellan tried to make propaganda at a meeting of the Galway County Council a short time ago. Surely, Deputy Killilea, and other Deputies on the benches opposite, are aware that they themselves, on another day, made propaganda, and political propaganda, in the same way that he has accused Deputy Donnellan of doing to-day.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Snr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Snr.  I have no recollection of it.

Mr. Cafferky: Information on Dominick Cafferky  Zoom on Dominick Cafferky  I well remember that, prior to the entry of Fianna Fáil into office, their great campaign was to end the racket carried on by the Cumann na nGaedheal organisation, that no physically fit man was entitled to a pension. To-day we are hearing a different story from the Government Party. The House is well aware of my opinion about pensions to physically fit men. They are on the records of the House. I have a full appreciation of the part that the I.R.A. played in this country when men were needed. Yet, I cannot assent to the teaching that, in order to show our respect and our appreciation for the deeds of valour, heroism and patriotism of the I.R.A., it is necessary to grant a pension, whether it be 15/- a week or £50 a week.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  After ten years' volunteer service?

Mr. Cafferky: Information on Dominick Cafferky  Zoom on Dominick Cafferky  After ten or 20 years' service. During the past few years we have been listening to quibbling and arguing about the part those men played or did not play. I think that if they knew that such a thing was to take place they would never accept pensions. Dáil Eireann itself is a sufficient memorial to the deeds of valour of the men who are gone and of those who are present. If we want to erect any other memorial to their valour we can do so, but I do not think that a pension of 15/- a week or £50 a week is going to show our appreciation of their patriotism and their valour. I am not opposed to the giving of pensions or to the granting of equitable assistance to men who lost their lives in the struggle. The assistance [200] given should be in accordance with the profession they occupied at the time they joined the struggle. Neither do I disagree with the idea of giving pensions to disabled men who have lost their health or a limb. I am in full agreement with that, irrespective of the cost that it may impose on the taxpayer.

What I am opposed to is the giving of pensions to physically fit men who are capable of earning their livelihood. This country cannot stand it. The Cumann na nGaedheal régime started this pension campaign in 1924. The Government Party to-day, which was then on the Opposition Benches, said that it was not a right thing to give those pensions. They accused the then Government of doling out money to their henchmen. When those who said that became the Government, did they reverse that policy? No. They enlarged the payments to such an extent that they now find themselves in the position that I believe this Bill had to be introduced to draw the line somewhere. The Government appreciate the fact that they have to do that, because there are thousands of new applicants coming forward to say that they took part in the armed resistance against foreign power. I know nothing about their claim. I do not know whether it is right or wrong.

Deputy Killilea said that his sole interest was to save 60,000 men from being put to the expense of £9 or £10 each as a result of being brought up here to Dublin to pursue their claims. Does any sensible citizen think that Deputy Killilea, or any other Deputy, is worried about that? He is no more worried about it than I am, and I am not worried. I am not worrying about what an individual will spend in Dublin giving evidence of his qualifications to get a pension, and neither is Deputy Killilea. It is the applicant's own look-out to be sure that he has a good case before he comes up. If his case is not of sufficient strength, then he must realise that he will not succeed. This whitewashing argument which some Fianna Fáil Deputies are trying to put over as their reason for supporting the Bill—that their desire is to prevent those men wasting some [201] of their hard earned money in coming to Dublin to further their claims—is all “boloney.” As a plain citizen I can read between the lines. When listening to a man speaking I know whether or not he is speaking the truth. The arguments that we have been listening to from some Deputies as their reasons for supporting the Bill are merely whitewashing ones.

I said on two occasions in the House that I was opposed to physically fit men getting pensions. At the moment we have 10,000 or 11,000 men in receipt of pensions. There are 60,000 others who claim that they are equally entitled to pensions. If the object of this Bill is to prevent those 60,000 applicants from presenting their cases to the board, and if it is going to slam the door in their faces, then I am going to oppose it. Those who are in receipt of pensions have done no more than those 60,000 who are seeking pensions. If the Taoiseach will agree to take off the Whips he will find that many Fianna Fáil T.D.s will be prepared to walk into the Division Lobby and ask for the withdrawal of the Bill. I remember that on one occasion, when I attacked the pensions system, I was accused of decrying the I.R.A. and of belittling the part they played in the struggle for freedom. A Deputy had the audacity to accuse me of that, but I was able to point to the official report of my speech to show that the reverse was the truth; to show that I have nothing but the highest respect and admiration for the men who took up arms and helped to secure for us the freedom that we enjoy in this part of the country. At the same time, I cannot find in the history of any of the revolutionary leaders or in any statement of the Taoiseach himself as regards the part that he himself played from the 1916 Rebellion up to the time that he took up office, that either he or any of his colleagues ever intended to take a pension from the State as a reward for the services which they had given to the country voluntarily— services which it was the bounden duty of every loyal Irishman to give when asked to take up arms in defence of this historic nation. I cannot find anything in the writings of Pádraig Pearse [202] or James Connolly or any of the great leaders from 1916 down to 1922——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy should keep to the Bill.

Mr. Cafferky: Information on Dominick Cafferky  Zoom on Dominick Cafferky  I am dealing with the Bill and trying to point out how silly and foolish it was in 1924 to grant pensions to one section of men who took part in the struggle. It was that foolishness and Party system that brought about the chaos and wrangling that we have here, and that exists outside amongst old comrades in the I.R.A. movement.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy is dealing with the 1924 and 1934 Acts, and this does not repeal them.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  The 1934 Act?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  This affects the 1934 Act, but does not give extra pensions—which the Deputy is speaking of—so far as I can read it.

Mr. Cafferky: Information on Dominick Cafferky  Zoom on Dominick Cafferky  I do not see how the Minister will ever give satisfaction and bring peace of mind to the many men who claim to have played a part, either directly or indirectly, unless he annuls the 1924 and 1934 Acts, and drafts a new one to bring in every man who has a claim, direct or indirect. Only in that way will he bring about satisfaction and the unity that is necessary in the Old I.R.A. movement. I prophesy that this Bill will be passed, even though opposed by the Opposition, as Fianna Fáil has a majority, and the Fianna Fáil Deputies will have to support the Whips, just as I should have to support the Whip if I were there. Many of them will have to vote against their consciences.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Not at all.

Mr. Cafferky: Information on Dominick Cafferky  Zoom on Dominick Cafferky  I do not want to take advantage of Fianna Fáil Deputies and say that they are cowardly for doing that. They belong to the Party and have to abide by its rules. I do not feel the Minister will serve any purpose by this Bill, other than to legalise the position of those who have received pensions, while those who [203] have not received them will be prevented from getting anything. As one who has no sympathy with men who are physically fit and who are in receipt of pensions, I feel bound to oppose this Bill on the grounds I have stated. I think it is the duty of every Deputy who has the privilege of opposing it to do so. Although the Bill will pass, I am nearly certain that, at a later stage, perhaps in three or four years' time, there will be the same trouble again, and new legislation will have to be introduced, to make some amendment or to alter the whole system on which the I.R.A. pensions are based.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  I would like to know what brought about this two-days debate? Was it not the men throughout the country who were denied justice and fair play and who banded themselves together in an organisation of Old Comrades of the I.R.A. and brought this case into court and obtained the judge's decision in their favour? I wonder if the Minister would have brought in this Bill if that had not taken place.

I rose here in 1943 and 1944 on behalf of the Old I.R.A. men. I know the men of my native county and of Enniscorthy town have been badly treated. Some of the Deputies on the Fianna Fáil benches have said that this is vote-catching. I do not think there is any need for vote-catching, as we are not on the eve of an election. The Deputy from Waterford forgets that the men of Enniscorthy, who are looking for their rights through this organisation, had to go to Waterford on one occasion to protect de Valera. Other Deputies say that 12,000 will lose their pensions. Of that 12,000, a big proportion have the miserable sum of 3/6 a week—and even that 3/6 is depriving them of other benefits which they could be getting.

I know the men of Enniscorthy who came to Dublin to go before the Referee. I submitted 40 names to the Minister and three of them were called before the Referee and I am informed now that, although they could not travel to Dublin, owing to their circumstances, [204] these three men have been assessed. That did not take very long to do, although the officers went there and certified for the men. Why cannot that be done throughout the country? These officers gave their sworn statements, of which I hold 10 copies here in my hand, signed by all the leaders of 1916, on behalf of two applications, which I submitted to the Minister yesterday, and which have been turned down again.

We are told that, under this Bill, the men can apply up to January, 1946. Here is the Minister's own reply, given to me in regard to two men who have been up only six weeks ago—that they have been turned down, that they are not persons to whom the Act applies. Yet there are men in the House listening to me who know that they are genuine cases and should have been assessed for pensions. I am not standing up to make a case for men who are not deserving of pensions, but if there are any men deserving pensions, they are the men of Enniscorthy who turned out in 1916 and who have been in the fight all along.

Not alone in Galway have resolutions been passed but in other urban councils as well. In Wexford County Council on last Monday, a resolution was passed by the Fianna Fáil members that these men should get a fair hearing. That is what the Labour Party are asking for—that a committee be set up so that justice may be done to the men who have been turned down. It is said that there are 60,000. That may be so, as anyone could fill in a form and apply. Doing justice to them does not mean that the 60,000 are to get pensions. What the Old I.R.A. men want is justice for the claimants who have a case.

We are told that, if this Bill is not passed, the pensions will be stopped. We do not want to see that happen, but the people who are in receipt of pensions are afraid that may be done. We are looking for justice on behalf of Old I.R.A. men and do not want to apply this to men who have already got pensions because they deserve them. If the Government introduced a Bill to do away with the good things done for their own men, surely we do not [205] want to do away with 10,000 pensioners who made the Government and sent them in here. It was by the votes of the Old I.R.A. that the first Fianna Fáil Government came into power.

Any time the Minister came down to my county during an election, even during the last election, he went to Old I.R.A. men to canvass for his Party. When he went to an Old I.R.A. man's house he told his wife that if they voted for his Party and his Party got in, they would see that her husband got a pension. It has been said that we want to take away the pensions already granted. That is not so. This Bill has been brought in in a hurry. Some Deputies, I suppose, have not even read the Bill. We are told that it is only to legalise the pensions already given. Legal advisers have stated that there is danger in this Bill to the men who are still left without pensions. We have been told from the other side of the House that the Opposition did not give pensions when they were in office. The Opposition did give pensions in their time in office. But I know of men who, because they did not join in the civil war, got no pensions under the Fianna Fáil Government, although they had as good a claim to them as men who were awarded pensions. Officers in County Wexford have certified for these men and have submitted evidence and are prepared to go before the Referee again to get justice for these men.

Two years ago this question of I.R.A. pensions was discussed, and I looked for fair play and justice for the County Wexford men whom I represent. I have a letter here on behalf of one of these men that was submitted to the Referee, signed by Mr. Brennan-Whitmore. He says: “Some of these services come within the purview of Captain D. Allen, T.D. for the constituency, to whom additional reference can be made if considered necessary.” Then there is the case of a man now living in Dun Laoghaire. His recommendation states:

“This is to certify that Thomas Franklin, Esmonde Street, Gorey, was well known to me as a member of the I.R.A. He served in the first and third Battalions, North Wexford [206] Brigade. I know him to be a fearless, trustworthy and obedient soldier in the days when it was dangerous to be a soldier. He being attached to the Railway D.S.E.R. he obtained some valuable information. He was dismissed from this post for refusing to carry British forces. I believe his is a case which should be considered. Any further information I shall be prepared to submit. Mise, le meas, JAMES O'TOOLE, late O/C. 3rd Battalion.”

Then I have another one here from all the officers in the North Wexford Brigade. I have ten such letters. I put down a question yesterday with regard to the case of Thomas Doyle. These two men have submitted additional evidence. I asked the Minister if he would allow their cases to be reopened under the new Bill and the Minister gave no reply. The fact that the Minister refused to reply shows the danger that there is in connection with these cases.

The Labour amendment to this Bill only asks that justice be done; that a committee be set up and that the officers in the different areas be brought again to Dublin. The men themselves have been up here before and submitted additional evidence and the officers can certify for them. Notwithstanding that, they were told that their cases did not come within the definition of active service. We have not yet been told in the House what active service means. The leaders of the men in Enniscorthy in 1916 were sentenced to death. The rank and file were taken away. These men have as good a claim to a pension as the men from any other town in Ireland. These men in Enniscorthy were the only people who came out in 1916 outside of the men in Dublin. They would not surrender until some of them came to interview the leaders in Arbour Hill and were told to surrender as the rebellion was finished in Dublin. Yet we are told that these men did not give active service.

I appeal to the Minister and to those on the opposite benches to see that these men get a hearing. They are only asking for justice and fair play. If one man can get a pension on the [207] recommendation of his commanding officer in a county why is the case of a man who has as good a record not considered? I intend to vote against this Bill because I believe that it is a danger to the men who are looking for their just rights. I want to tell Deputy Childers, when he says that they are pension hunters, that they are no such thing. They are only seeking for their just rights to which they believe they are entitled under the 1934 Act.

Domhnall Ua Donnchadha: Information on Donal J. O'Donoghue  Zoom on Donal J. O'Donoghue  Ó thángas anso ní bhfuaireas seans ar bheith páirteach i ndíospóireacht achrannach go dtí anois, agus is oth liom an drochshampla a tugadh dom inné agus inniu, go mór mhór inné. Cúpla lá ó shoin cuireadh fáilte oifigiúil anso roimh chuairteóirí iasachta, agus dá mbeidís i láthair inné ag éisteach leis an Teachta Ó hUiginn ag caitheamh droch-mheas ar an Aire Cosanta is amhlaidh ba dhóigh leo ná raibh mar Aire Cosanta againn ach an bligéárd is mó agus an t-amadán is mó a bhí le fáil in Éirinn. Ach b'fhéidir gur fíor don Teachta aduairt gur ar a shon féin a bhí sé ag caint. B'é an tarna duine a chuir déistean orm ná an Teachta Ó Donnaláin. Duairt sé gur bhréag é don Aire a rá go raibh seasca míle iarrathóirí dleathacha ag cur isteach ar theistiméireacha. Duairt sé go bhfuair duine éigin amach i mBaile Átha Cliath go raibh sé riachtanach d'oifigeach uimhir éigin fear do bheith féna smacht aige in aimsir an chogaidh, agus nuair ba mhaith leis an nduine sin grád captaein a dhéanamh amach gur chuaidh sé timpeall agus gur bhailigh sé céad ainm, agus gur mhol sé dhóibh bheith na n-iarrathóirí, rud a dheineadar. Gur mar sin d'fhás na huimhreacha go dtí go raibh seasca míle istigh.

Thaspáin an Teachta Ua Donnchadha go raibh suas le dachad míle comrádaithe páirteach sa bhabhta dlí, agus gur éirigh le 13,000 na teistiméireacha d'fháil agus go raibh ar a laghad 7,000 nó 8,000 ná raibh baint acu le haon rud, agus ins an slí sin bhí 60,000 déanta amach; agus más rud é go raibh iarrthóirí bréagacha ann, do réir [208] liosta an Aire, bhíodar ar an dtaobh thiar den bhabhta dlí chomh maith. Táim cinnte, arsan Teachta Ua Donnchadha, ná fuair gach iarrthóir cothrom na féinne agus gur deineadh dearmaid. Ach má bhí fear amháin sa tigh go raibh an rud sin ag déanamh trioblóide dho b'é sin an tAire Cosanta, agus táimidne, ar an dtaobh seo den Tigh, ag cabhru leis chun slí éigin do dhéanamh amach a cheartóidh aon éagóir a deineadh ar aoinne a throid ar son na tíre.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  As one belonging to the same generation as Deputy Cafferky, I deplore the attitude adopted by him, that the people should not reward the members of the Old I.R.A. who made the sacrifices they did to make this State possible. I am sure that the younger Ireland will very much resent Deputy Cafferky's attitude or that of anyone else who states that the soldiers of the Irish Republican Army should not be looked after by the State. We would be very ungrateful indeed if we did not appreciate the sterling work that was done by those men. On the other hand, it is quite obvious that the opposition to this Bill is designed to create further misrepresentation. A very considerable amount of misrepresentation is being carried on throughout the country as to the effect of the decision of the courts. Anyone who has examined that decision knows very well that that decision does not extend by one iota the definition of “active service” under the Act of 1934. We all know that that decision does not entitle anyone who is outside the scope of the present Act to get a pension. It has been deliberately represented to a number of people who are not in receipt of pensions that that decision meant that they would be entitled to pensions. That misrepresentation, I think, is being continued to a certain degree in this debate.

The only effect, as we all know, of that decision is that the procedure under which some of these claims were heard was held by the courts not to be in order. It does not mean that any of those people who were refused pensions would be entitled to pensions. [209] If the people understand that, I cannot see what is the reason for the opposition to this Bill.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  Is that all the decision means?

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I say that that, in effect, is all the decision means.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  That is what we require this Bill for?

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  We require this Bill to regularise the procedure under which various pensions were awarded and in order, of course, to prevent further repetition of this decision which will not and does not in effect, as Deputy McGilligan well knows, help any Old I.R.A. man or does not, in effect, extend the scope of the 1934 Act.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I wonder does the Deputy believe that?

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  The greatest fault I have to find with this Bill is that there is not provision in it to put things a little bit further under the 1934 Act. I notice that although Deputy Cafferky suggests that no Old I.R.A. man should get a pension or that no physically fit man should get a pension, he also suggests that the Minister should scrap the present legislation and introduce a Bill to cover the 60,000 persons who have applied. I fail to understand how he can reconcile his two statements, but it is quite obvious to anybody that amongst those 60,000 applicants there must be some thousands of “chancers”; there must be some thousands of applicants who would not be entitled to pension no matter how any definition in any Act is stretched. The difficulty of the Minister under the present legislation and under any legislation will be to separate the wheat from the——

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  “Chancers.”

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  ——chaff. If the Minister can find in this Bill some means to cover the genuine applicants who would be entitled to a pension and who had service he would for all time finish any question under the military service pensions code. We all know that [210] everybody in this country who shouted “Up, Sinn Fein” is not entitled to pension. We all know that the vast majority of persons in this country who gave service have got pensions and that the vast majority of the Old I.R.A. are satisfied. There are, however, borderline cases and, I am satisfied, some genuine cases who, for one reason or another, have not got their claims through. If the Minister can find a way to provide for those people, whether by having their cases reopened or, if amending legislation is necessary, by having a section provided to cover it, he would finish this difficult problem that has arisen under this code.

I do not think that anybody will be misled by the propaganda of Deputy McGilligan's Party in respect of this Bill. I do not think that any of the Old I.R.A. would be misled by the crocodile tears that were shed on their behalf by Deputy Dr. O'Higgins in this House. It is no use for any Deputy on the Fine Gael Party Benches to tell us that it is as simple to deal with this problem under the 1934 Act as it was under the 1924 Act, when you were dealing with evidence that was only a few years old and when the chief qualification under the Act was membership of the then Irish Free State Army. We must remember that in the cases to-day dealing with evidence that is over 20 years old, and in respect of many of the cases evidence is not now available, because the people who could testify have died or have gone out of the country. It is a very difficult problem, and there is no analogy whatever between the problem under this Act and the problem under the 1924 Act. They are two different propositions. An attempt has been made to make a political guinea-pig out of the Old I.R.A., by telling them that by passing this Bill we are opening the door to the whole 60,000 people who applied for pensions under this Act.

I hope, as I have said, that the Minister can find a way out to cover the genuine applicants who have failed for one reason or another under this Act. Some provision should also be made in respect of some members of the Old I.R.A. who are in receipt of pensions, [211] and who, I think, are being treated unfairly.

As the law stands, numbers of those men, if they are drawing payment from public funds in any form, have deductions made from their pensions. We have unfortunate men working, for instance, as county council gangers and earning just a few pounds in the year. Some of those men are Old I.R.A. men, and they have pensions of only £15 or £20, but part of that pension is deducted because of the fact that they earn a few pounds from the county councils or other public authorities.

I think the Minister should stop that. Because these unfortunate men are Old I.R.A. men, an endeavour is made by local authorities to give them employment, and simply because they earn money in that way their pensions are affected. Some of their colleagues may be engaged in business as shopkeepers or farmers. They are well off in this world's goods, but these unfortunate men, owing to their straitened financial position, are in the employment of local authorities or the State and are receiving small salaries. Because they have that employment, portion of their pension is deducted. I think it is very unfair to them, and I appeal to the Minister to insert a section to cover them and give them relief that is very badly needed.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  Like Deputy Cafferky, Deputy Moran is a young man. If he were a little older he might not have criticised Deputy Cafferky's opposition to pensions for able-bodied men.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I will always criticise opposition to any pensions for Old I.R.A. men.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  If the Deputy were a little older he would remember the time when the Fianna Fáil Party strenuously advocated the abolition of pensions for able-bodied men. That was before they got into power. They even got out election posters and broadcast them through the country on this very question. But, having got into power, they were forced to change [212] their opinions. Deputy Davin threw a little light upon that question. He showed it was the moderating influence of a minority Party in this House that forced the Fianna Fáil Party to come to their senses when they became a Government, and I think that is an argument in favour of free election or proportional representation and the presence of minority parties in this House.

If the Government, in their flights of irresponsibility, having assumed office, had succeeded in carrying that Bill for the abolition of pensions to able-bodied men, they would probably have created a very dangerous and difficult situation and an undesirable situation in the country, and they would have inflicted a grave injustice, not only on those who were drawing pensions at the time, but on those of their own supporters who were entitled to pensions and got them afterwards.

The question of whether pensions should be paid to able-bodied men is not under discussion and does not arise very much on this Bill; but it has been introduced, and I think it is only right to say that in an ordinary case it is not desirable that able-bodied men should have pensions. But the circumstances under which those pensions were provided were very exceptional. You do not have a war of independence very often in any country. The war of independence that was brought to success here occurred only once in the course of 700 years, and the circumstances were undoubtedly exceptional. We know large numbers of young men took part in that struggle and by doing so they not only placed themselves in physical danger, but they also jeopardised their future economic existence, their future earning power and success in life.

Young men left schools and colleges, gave up apprenticeships, and so on, and thereby made very severe sacrifices for which they could never recoup themselves in later life. There was, therefore, a case for providing pensions for those men. It has been said by some Deputies that the men who took part in that struggle were only doing their duty. They were, of course, but it is not sufficient that men [213] should do their duty; it is also necessary that the community for whom those men made sacrifices should recompense them in some way. The community certainly has a duty to perform in regard to those men who made great sacrifices, and it is only right that that duty should be performed.

We can approach this Bill in many ways, but I think the worst possible way in which to approach it is from a narrow Party angle, or to seek to make Party capital out of the difficult situation that has existed all along. It is because I believe that we should not approach this question from a narrow Party angle that I am in wholehearted support of the motion tabled by the Labour Party, which seeks to set up a select committee to investigate the whole question and see if a better solution can be found than what is provided in this Bill.

When the Minister was introducing the Bill, instead of making a case for it he was, I think, making a very good case for the motion, because he dwelt all the time upon the difficult problem which is facing him. If the problem is so complicated, surely he should be glad to avail of whatever help can be given him by a select committee such as is recommended here. There is one thing certain and that is that if he were to avail of that help he would have behind whatever decision might be reached by the committee the moral support of all political Parties represented on it, and that would mean a good deal in the endeavour to solve this problem. That there are flaws in the existing legislation was made clear by practically every speaker who spoke from the Government Benches. They have all admitted that there are numbers of cases of men who have been unjustly treated. If there are, surely there is a case for further investigation, for earnest and careful thought on the part of all Parties? I have no legal knowledge, and for that reason I must confess that I found it very difficult to follow Deputy Moran's argument.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  He does not believe a word of it; I do not think he follows it himself.

[214]Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  Perhaps not. He stated the court decision did not affect those who were disqualified; it is only those who were successful. It surely would affect every man who was disqualified if it is proved that the tribunal which disqualified him was not legally constituted. At least a man who was disqualified would, if the court decision is upheld, have the right to come forward again and have his case reinvestigated, with a hope of securing justice in the future.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  And Deputy Moran cannot deny that.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  I am not a lawyer and cannot follow the workings of the legal mind.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  I think we shall have to get a judge to hear his case this time, instead of a civil servant under the control of the Minister.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  Deputy Moran does not think that that is true.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  The Deputy knows that it does not extend the definition of “service” under the 1934 Act. The Deputy is trying to put it over that it does.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  Deputy Moran got plenty of time to speak and he could have made his case perhaps a little better. There are many aspects of this question which require careful consideration. There may perhaps have been a mistake in the manner in which the original Acts were introduced. We know that if there had been more time to consider all the aspects of the question and if there had been no political unrest or upheaval, it might have been possible to devise a better scheme of awards for those who made sacrifices in the trouble, but nobody can deny that the community did owe a debt to these men.

It is unfortunate that the community have been unable to recompense these men to an even greater extent. It should have been possible, not only to give these men a reward for their services, but to provide them with a [215] better means of living. That, I think, would have been of more value to these men than any pension. When these young men went out to fight for the freedom of Ireland, they believed that, in a free Ireland—they did not know whether or not they would live to see it—there would be a decent livelihood for every honest citizen. They have been disillusioned and disappointed, and it may be that that disillusionment with economic conditions has added a good deal to the bitterness which exists in regard to the inadequacy of the machinery for providing pensions and the inadequacy, in many cases, of the pensions themselves.

Many hard cases have been quoted of men who have died in county homes and men who have suffered serious privation, after having made great sacrifices in the struggle for freedom. It is a pity those things happened, and it should be our earnest hope that, whatever we do with regard to making awards to these men and getting the outstanding cases cleared up and settled, we shall be able to make social conditions better not only for the men who made these sacrifices but for their dependents and the dependents of those who have already died.

Mr. Furlong: Information on Walter Furlong  Zoom on Walter Furlong  I think the proposal put before the House in this motion is completely wrong. We have here a Bill introduced really to ensure complete obedience to the law. The Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the law in this country, has decided that the procedure which operated in relation to the pensions board for the past eight years was illegal. As Deputy Maguire said, there is no interference at all with the rights of any man to apply for a pension. The fact that he gets a rehearing under the present system will not increase his chances of getting a pension. We have had figures quoted by men who know very little about the subject. We have heard 60,000, 10,000 and 20,000 quoted. I have a communication from the official Old I.R.A. Men's Association in Cork City in which they ask me to use my endeavours to secure some method by which those who got a raw deal before the pensions board will be enabled to [216] get a fair deal. That official body, with all the records of the 1st Cork Brigade in its possession, puts a limit of ten men to every battalion of the 1st Cork Brigade who would be entitled to pensions. I know that there are hundreds of applications for pensions from the 1st Cork Brigade area, but we submit that most of them have no just claim at all, that they got a fair hearing and that no matter what tribunal is set up they will not come within the scope of the Pensions Acts. I have not got much official knowledge, as I was not a verifying officer—I was just a private in my company—but my officers who represent all my comrades have officially decided that they will have to come to a decision some time and they have asked me formally to vote in favour of this amending Bill, with the proviso that the Minister should seek some way out. Surely the Committee Stage of this Bill is the appropriate time for anybody who has any sensible suggestions to make to put them forward. Apparently it is very difficult to arrive at a formula which will cover these people who have just claims, but who have been turned down because of technicalities. It is not a lack of desire to serve them that is responsible, but apparently some very great difficulties which are in the way, and if any member or any Party has any solution to offer, I suggest that, on Committee Stage will be the correct time and the Minister will be more than favourably disposed to receive any such suggestion.

I should like to express my appreciation of Deputy Giles's statement. We who served the country in our young days, and served it wholeheartedly, have been painted as a lot of racketeers, gangsters and thugs. If a man claims to be an Old I.R.A. man, owing to the campaign of vilification by men who had not the guts to face up to the struggle—and we had examples of it here to-day—he is treated with the utmost disrespect, and, as a matter of fact, if any man, seeking employment in any of the big business concerns, says he is an Old I.R.A. man, it is taken as indicating some kink in his make-up and that it would not be safe to entrust executive duties to him. That is what service [217] for the country entails for those who guaranteed the safety of our people during the five years of this war. I am very grateful to Deputy Giles, although I differ from him in relation to this Bill. I believe that a true obedience to the dictates of the law is implied in this Bill, and that it would be utterly unfair to start anew and make those who have acquired pensions, who had clear outstanding cases according to the 1934 Act and who were awarded pensions, re-submit their cases. Surely nobody will suggest that a Government can spend public funds without any control. I believe the Minister for Finance would not be justified in continuing to pay pensions under the present circumstances without this Bill legalising the proceedings of the Pensions Board.

An attack was made here to-day on a verifying officer from my neighbourhood. The verifying officers were selected by the men in their locality as men fit to represent them and to present their cases before the pensions board. There was a reference to-day by a Deputy to Tom Crofts. I am not a particular friend of his, but I know that he is a man who served his country well. His family and himself have served the country down the years. It is a sad thing that a man can stand up in this House and make imputations against a man like Tom Crofts. I know that the Deputy who did that would not have the guts to make the charge outside this House. He had to apologise before. Reference was made to the McCarthy case. A solicitor who was prosecuting that case tried to impugn the honour of a verifying officer. He had to eat his words and apologise to him. I think it is a scandalous state of affairs that irresponsible men can stand up here and vilify those who gave good, loyal service to the country.

I am voting for this amending Bill because I believe it is needed to legalise the payment of pensions. The Bill will not injure, in any way, the claims of those who have been turned down. I hope that on Committee Stage the Minister may be able to do something to meet the reasonable claims of a small number of claimants. [218] I do not say that the 40,000 who have made claims are entitled to pensions. They may have been with us in spirit, but many of them did not do anything. It may be an unpopular thing to say that. The fact is that this amending Bill is necessary to legalise the position as well as to pay our tribute of respect and obedience to the law of the land.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Much of the discussion on this Bill has hinged around the question as to whether or not it runs contrary to the Constitution, and whether it in any way injures the claims of those who did not succeed in getting pensions under the 1924 or 1934 Pensions Acts. Deputy O'Higgins led off, and in doing so tried to carry on the campaign that has been carried on outside this House: that is to lead the men who did not succeed in getting pensions to believe that if the Bill is passed their claims to a pension will be in some way injured. I hope that, before this stage of the Bill is passed, someone on the Opposition Benches, whether it be Deputy McGilligan or some other Deputy, will have the honesty to get up and say that even if the 60,000 men were to go before the courts and get orders similar to those granted to the 60 or 70 men a couple of weeks ago, it would not in any way help them to get a pension.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  It would not help them.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  As Deputy Moran pointed out, it would not provide a definition of what was military service. Neither the Supreme Court nor any other court has the power to give any man a pension. The 60 men or 70 men who got court orders are no nearer getting a pension than the 50,000 or 60,000 who, so far, have not sought court orders. That is the position, and I challenge any member of the Opposition to prove otherwise. It must be agreed that this Bill is absolutely necessary if the 40,000 or 50,000 people who have not received pensions are not to be made fools of. Those men are being made fools of, because what they are being told is this: that if they can get an order from the Supreme Court their [219] cases must be reopened and reheard and that they are certain to get pensions. People down the country who have a great interest, many of them, in encouraging those men to bring their cases before the courts to get orders, are telling them that.

The big majority of Deputies know what the procedure has been before the Military Service Pensions Board and the Referee since 1934. Under the 1934 Act the Referee had to be a practising barrister of 10 years' standing. He was to be assisted by an advisory committee of four persons. Deputies are aware that those applying for pensions had to fill up large forms. They had to answer 40, 50 or 100 questions. They were warned on the form that if they obtained a pension by making untrue statements they rendered themselves liable to a term of imprisonment. We may take it for granted that every man in the I.R.A. had ordinary intelligence. Otherwise they would not have been in it. Therefore, we may assume that when filling up these forms applicants made the best case they possibly could. Later, they were called before the board and were examined on oath on the information which they had given on the application form. They had to go before examiners, before the advisory committee and the Referee. We know that the Referee and the advisory committee took evidence from the verifying officers. All that was done before the Referee issued his report. He was the legal assessor in the whole matter.

As regards the decision of the Supreme Court, what the court decided was that according to the 1934 Act the procedure carried out was irregular. The court held that the four members of the advisory committee should have been sitting with the Referee in the hearing of every single application. In other words, it held that the four members of the advisory committee should have heard the evidence of the 60,000 men who applied for pensions, and should then have adjudicated on the evidence tendered before the Referee made his award. Every Deputy who has had any experience of the examination of witnesses must be well aware [220] of what the hearing of evidence from 60,000 men would mean. As the Minister said yesterday, the position was that it was not possible to follow the procedure laid down in the 1934 Act. The mistake that was made was that the Referee did not advise the Government or the Minister years ago that it was not possible to operate the procedure laid down for dealing with these 60,000 cases. Possibly, a mistake was made and that the Minister should have come to the House and asked for amending legislation.

The position at any rate is this, that a campaign is being carried on through the country amongst the Old I.R.A. who have not received pensions. They are being told that this Bill is doing an injustice to them. In my opinion, no greater fraud was ever sought to be put across any group of men in this country than to tell those men that. It is perpetrating an absolute fraud on them to lead them to believe that if they were to take their cases into court and get an order they would thereby be any nearer to getting a pension. That is an absolute fraud to practise on some of the best citizens that this country has ever produced. This Bill was absolutely necessary in order to legalise the position. It should have been done ten years ago, I admit, and if so we would have had the very same procedure adopted as has been adopted in the Bill now. It would have been absolutely necessary. However, the point was not brought to the Minister's notice until it was brought up in the courts, and then he took the first opportunity to bring in this Bill before the Dáil to legalise the procedure that had been followed already.

Up to a few years ago, the High Court actually decided many cases on appeal on script alone. I think Deputy McGilligan will admit that. That procedure was changed by this House in the last five or six years.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  When was that?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The Deputy knows.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I am very interested in legal history and would like to know when that happened.

[221]Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  I am just mentioning the fact to show that the Referee and the advisory board had the sworn evidence of each applicant in considering his case and it was as sufficient as if the evidence had been given before the Referee.

Many Deputies on all sides of the House have pointed out that, even under the 1934 Act, there are many persons who have failed to get pensions and who, in the opinion of those competent to know, should have got pensions. I appeal to the Minister to take steps on the Committee Stage of this Bill to see that the 1934 Act is amended, so as to allow an easy reopening of the 3,000 or 4,000 cases where a pension should have been given under the 1934 Act and where, for one reason or another, it was not given. It may have been that in filling in the form originally they were not sufficiently versed in the Act or in giving their evidence they were not able to prove the case or because, in the opinion of the Referee and the committee, the service on that occasion was not of sufficient military value to justify a pension.

I want to tell the Minister and the House that, in my opinion, there are many cases of men and women throughout the country who should have come under the 1934 Act and have not come under it. We need an amendment of the 1934 Act in sub-sections (5) and (6) of Section 8, in order to bring these men within the ambit of the Act. I put it to the Minister, now that he has an opportunity in connection with this Bill, to bring in an amendment of the Act. I would go further and suggest that in addition there will then be the problems of many persons who gave sterling service in the Old I.R.A. and who may not qualify. I put it to him that in order to liquidate the matter and finish once and for all this whole question of I.R.A. pensions, he should bring a scheme into this Bill to enable the Referee and the advisory committee to award a gratuity to men who lost two or three or four years in imprisonment or on the run, and who may not have qualified. We know men who may have been several years in prison and perhaps doing penal servitude in 1920 and 1921 and who did not qualify. [222] Even if the Minister amends the Act, I put it to him that it is opportune now to give men who lost valuable years of their lives a gratuity if they cannot qualify for a pension. That would finish for once and all the I.R.A. pensions question. He has the opportunity to do so under this Bill, and I hope he will take full advantage of it.

I make a further suggestion as regards small pensions up to, say, £20, that provision should be inserted in this Bill to allow men, if they wish, to commute these pensions. Men getting £5 or £10 a year find those pensions very little use, and if allowed to commute them up to say £20 under this Bill it would be a great advantage to them. These small pensions stand in their way in the case of unemployment assistance and are a hindrance, and even when they come to 70 years of age they are at a disadvantage in getting the full old age pension. These small pensions should be commuted and a certain number of years' service made a lump sum instead.

I hope the propaganda that is being carried on outside by members of this House amongst those citizens will cease. It is misleading propaganda— that the courts can give them a pension. We should not have these simple country people, Old I.R.A. men, made fools of any longer by people who should know better. Every Deputy knows quite well that the courts cannot give a pension, and that the whole 50,000 who have been refused could not get pensions simply by going to the courts.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  If I felt in any way belligerent about this Bill, I think I might describe Deputy Allen's speech as being the greatest fraud attempted upon the House—that and the speech of Deputy Moran, who has left the House now. This is a pretence that this measure is required to validate something previously done. I might feel very differently about this measure except that in my whole period I have only been approached four times in connection with pensions, and if my percentage of failure compares in any way with the percentage of failure or success that other people have had in [223] dealing with this matter as a whole, there will be many disappointments, as I have had only one out of the four which was to any degree successful.

The technique of Deputies Allen and Moran is very interesting. It was apparently the best the Government could do, when they found that the tide of annoyance in the country was rising against them. The odd thing said in their speeches is to be found put into letters that have been sent by the Deputies who have been plagued by constituents in areas where the I.R.A. are in some considerable numbers. I find that the argument put up here has been repeated through those letters. It is the best that can be done, in all the endeavours of harassed Party-men who really know they are doing an injustice in this connection. Although it is not an injustice, of course it is being promulgated as if it were the main criticism of the Bill. That is the first nonsensical thing said about this Bill—that this measure is required to validate something. It is not required at all for that purpose. If anyone says it is, I want to ask if there has been a solitary case brought before the courts attempting to quash a pension that was given. There has not. Has there been one notified? No. Has there been one threatened? I doubt it. How could one go before the courts?

Of course I am not going to listen to every Tom, Dick and Harry who says that Mr. X got a pension and that he should not have got it and who wants to get a conditional order quashing it. Of course, I do not. The courts can act on John Citizen, who says: “I was an I.R.A. man and put in an application for a pension; but I got under the Act a note from the Referee or someone belonging to the Referee saying that I was turned down; and I personally know of this other bit of evidence and I was never called before the Referee. I submitted certain names in order to back up the credentials I put in and I know they were never called.” He can produce evidence or affidavits from these people to say that they were never called. Naturally, the [224] court will act on that. It will act on the evidence of the man who says: “I know of my own knowledge that I did these things.” Is John Citizen who got a pension to say: “I got a pension. I was never called and I want the court to quash it”? Of course he is not. Who will put evidence before the court with regard to any pension given?

Deputy Moran will possibly tell me that there is this ground for fear with regard to the invalidation of the 11,000 pensions granted. There has not been a solitary one threatened in the courts. I suggest that no one can be threatened, unless, of course, the Government decide, in scrupulous honesty, that these decisions having been given they will have to bring before the court the fact that certain people got pensions without appearing before the committee. That day will never dawn. Where is the danger, therefore, that a solitary man who has got a pension will have his pension invalidated? Everybody knows that there is not a particle of danger of that. Nobody can suggest the procedure which will be gone through to achieve that end. It cannot be done and will not be done.

Can we not clear this out of the way by acknowledging that, if there was the slightest fear of that, it is possible to-morrow to bring in a single-clause Bill simply saying: “All pensions granted under the 1934 Act, no matter by what procedure, are hereby validated?” If that is brought in, it will probably be passed unanimously in this House. Is not that known? What is the necessity of introducing this red herring, except that it is well known to be a very strong-smelling red herring and is required to keep people off the real scent? The real scent, of course, is the 48,500 people who have not got pensions. I think I heard Deputy Moran refer to some of these as “chancers”.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  Undoubtedly I did.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  It would be far more honest if people came in here and said: “We are not going to have these cases reconsidered, because, on the whole, the procedure having been gone [225] through, it was good enough, and the men who have been turned down we must regard more or less as `chancers' who have failed.” It would be more honest to say that. That is really what you are at. Deputy Allen asked —is it a fact that the men who got conditional orders have got any better chance than they had under the 1934 Act? Of course, they have. If he asks me if there has been any new definition by the court of “active service,” I say, of course, there has not been. I do not know anybody who said it. Deputy Moran will say it in order to kill this argument, but no one really believes in his argument.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  That is the smokescreen raised by your Party.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  It is really from the bog country that that smoke comes and it is Deputy Moran and his colleagues who are raising it. That is really the smokescreen behind which all the Deputies on the other side are going to operate in order to prevent 48,000 men getting what? Not pensions —getting their chance to come before the Referee. That is what you are preventing. That is what all the pother is about. If the court had done something and it was said that because people were treated unfairly and the procedure had not been carried out, their claims were deemed to be just, that would mean that 48,000 people would get pensions without their cases being tried. Nobody is asking for that. The I.R.A. are not asking for that. I have not had any personal notification, but I have received their papers which indicate that they have been well advised that what the court said is that what this legislative body decreed with regard to them in the nature of procedure was not observed. The court said it could be observed. Of course, it could be observed. Why should it not be observed?

Deputy Moran and his colleagues wrote to the Ballinrobe branch of the organisation and they put up the argument that the pensions will cease. They are bold enough to say that, if the Bill is not passed, awards already granted will be nullified and payments [226] will cease. The men who wrote that were skating dangerously near the other side of the truth. I do not think that the Deputy really in his heart really believes that. They also say that it must be realised by those who have studied the position that the recent decision in the courts places the applicants in no better position than they were. That is not right. It does place them in a better position.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  In what way?

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  It says that they had not a fair trial and that they should get it. That is all it says.

A Deputy:  Is the word “fair” mentioned in the judgment?

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  Not at all. It says the procedure was not gone through. If the Deputy wants that, he can have it. All that is being asked by those who object to this Bill is that the procedure should be gone through.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  Did it extend the scope of the Act?

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  No. We are not extending the scope of the Act. The court decision did not extend it. Therefore, no legislation is required to prevent the court from extending it. It has not been done. The more that type of argument is put up, the more extravagant is the pretended case for the measure. A Deputy colleague of Deputy Moran says: “I do not know of any applicant who is prepared to do over again what he has done before, namely, to submit the same evidence he submitted before”—and note this —“with the same result.” That is begging the question. What they do ask to be allowed to submit again is the same evidence that they submitted before, but to submit it to the authority we asked to have it considered by when we passed the Act. That is all that is being asked. That is what is being denied. Do not let there be any pretence that there is an amendment of the scope of “active service” Do not let there be any pretence that, if people were lucky to get before the court, they got pensions for the asking. Do not let there be any pretence [227] that, if we do not pass this, the 48,000 can get pensions. Not a bit of it. All they can get would be—some of them, not all—conditional orders, and that would mean that the Referee would have to try their cases. That is what is being blocked. Why is it being blocked?

If Deputy Moran and his colleagues believe that, in fact, a great number of the I.R.A. would come to the conclusion that it is no good, that they would simply have to re-submit evidence already submitted and there would be no chance, naturally those people will not apply. Does Deputy Moran believe that there are many thousands in that position? His colleague said that he does not know of any applicant who is prepared to do this. Supposing there are 50 per cent. of them who will take that view, that they are what Deputy Moran calls “chancers” and have had their case exploded and that is the end of it, then of course the moment you say that, you reduce the 48,000 who are likely applicants to 24,000. Therefore, all this argument about the enormous length of time and the enormous expense that it will take to re-hear cases has to be divided by two. Supposing that Deputy O Cléirigh when he writes to his branch is speaking about something that he knows, and that hardly anybody will go before the Referee, then, of course, it is ludicrous to have all this pother about it. If there are only 2,000 or 3,000 going to take a chance again, the Referee will be able to hear them inside a year. Why all the trouble about the Bill then?

It may be that the Deputies who wrote that to their constituents who are represented by I.R.A. branches do not believe that at all. It may be that they believe in their hearts that civil servants were not the proper people to try these cases. It may be that they thought, as I think was generally accepted through this House, that when the 1934 Act was passed it was passed with a bias in a particular direction, just the same as landlord and tenant legislation passed in this country has a bias in [228] favour of the tenant and workmen's compensation legislation has a bias in favour of the injured workman. I think it was believed when that Act was passed that there was going to be, as far as the setting up of the tribunal was concerned, a bias in favour of the I.R.A. applicant, and it may well be that that bias was supposed to have been given its full weight through the Referee from time to time appointed. It may well be that Deputy Moran and his colleague, Deputy O Cléirigh, really believed that, whereas the Referee might have had the proper bias, some of the people who served under him had not, but that they ruled, I am not saying dishonestly or unjustly, but in an abstract way and that they did not rule with sufficient sympathy towards the I.R.A. applicant, and, if that is the case, that these men should get another run. If the Deputy had that view when the 1934 Act was passed, that it was proper and right to have these cases tried always with a bias towards the applicant, and if he feels that that bias was not present when the cases were being tried by the people who were not the Referee, then he should see that a new Referee with the proper bias, a sympathetic type, should be asked to deal with these cases.

In any event, Deputy Moran's colleague has put himself on record—I do not know whether Deputy Moran would like to record his enthusiasm for this phrase—that he does not know of any applicant who is prepared to re-submit his case. I do not think he will take that view. I do not know if any person standing for this measure will take that view. Of course, they will not. They know well that there are any number of the I.R.A. through the country who will simply take what the courts have given them, and that is this: that the same evidence on which they have already unsuccessfully tried to base a claim before a tribunal that they feel not to be the proper one, may bring a different result when it gets before the real tribunal.

It is really a scandalous thing that, without any case being made, except this fatuous business about validating the pensions already granted, having [229] held the carrot more or less before the noses of these 48,500 people for over ten years, we should now tell them that we will not even let them get to where they were going if they followed on with that old carrot still dangling in front of them. There is, of course, the new type of technique adopted by Deputy Ó Cléirigh. Deputy Ó Cléirigh and Deputy Furlong had the same viewpoint—Deputy Moran had the same— that there is a funny sort of three layer sandwich in all this: (1) The Bill is required to validate pensions given already—I suggest that it is nonsense and nobody believes it—(2) The Bill is not going to do any harm to the 48,500. It is recognised that that is not the case. The third thing is the grand bit of delusion that the Party has cottoned on to. They each plead that there is a number—and the figure went from 2,000 up to 5,000—who have not got a good hearing before anybody, and that we must get the whole thing reopened and in fact the whole Act readjusted to get decent cases of hardship that we know of brought before the Referee. That, of course, means this, that when Deputy Moran goes down to his constituency hereafter and some of the people who might fall inside the group of 48,500 disappointed people approach him, he can say: “You are not one of the people I was talking about”.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I will refer them back to the Deputy.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  He may refer them back to me, but the best that I can do is to refer them to his word “chancers”. That will end his gallop with regard to these people.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  That is the Deputy's attitude to all of them.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I hope there will be no misrepresentation. I have not used that word about these men. The Deputy has. If the Deputy wants to withdraw it, he has his opportunity now.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I have made myself quite clear. The Deputy is trying to misrepresent me, at which he is a past-master.

[230]Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I will withdraw the word if the Deputy says he did not use it.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  The Deputy is taking the word out of its context.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  The Deputy is getting more publicity for this than possibly he wants. The context the Deputy used the word in was simply that some of the I.R.A. were chancers.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  Some of the 60,000 applicants—I said.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  We are agreed on the phrase. The word was used and we know its application. In any event, the technique, as I say, is rather good —plead that there are a couple of thousand people who have not got their rights under this measure and then you can go back to the people and say: “You are not one of the men I described as chancers. You are one of the hard cases for whom I want the Act opened” and everything will be happy—at least, it may be if the Deputy can get the people to believe that really he was referring to the hard cases, and not as the text of his speech would imply, that he regarded them mainly as being in the other category.

The last matter in all this is the time that will be required if we have to send these back for decision. An analogy has been made with the 1924 Act. It is quite proper to say that under the 1924 Act possibly the cases to be decided were simpler. In any event, remember the procedure that was adopted. It was a procedure that possibly prevented quite a number of people from coming forward who might have put in applications if the applications were put up in written form. There was a special open hearing. As far as I remember Deputy Norton stated yesterday that the two commissioners, so to speak, who travelled around the country sat in something just short of 40 places and held open hearings. It has been suggested to me—I do not know whether there is any value in the suggestion— that if these 48,500 people were asked to present themselves at local centres, [231] where there could be a public examination of them, a great number of them would disappear. I think any of them who fall under Deputy Moran's description would certainly go. They would not come forward.

There would be no good in their exposing themselves to public ridicule as well as to the private ridicule which Deputy Moran has put upon them here. In any event, the open-air treatment does do a lot of good in quite a number of these cases, and it has been suggested to me that you could definitely close out whatever fraction of these people who are presenting cases, that they know they cannot substantiate, if you had open hearings. It all depends on how many remained over. After, say, they are given the rights according to the court decision, how many are going to fall by the wayside? Realising that they have tried whatever evidence they could get, and can get no fresh evidence, they will see no good in promoting their case to the length of the Referee. If it is, as some people here believe, about half of those who are left over, then your problem is not to deal with 50,000, but only to deal with something in the neighbourhood of 23,000 to 24,000. I know quite a number of people who do not believe that that is the problem at all.

Whatever the problem is, Deputies who are voting for this measure, I think, are in this dilemma: If there are only a very few who will again face the music and go before the Referee, then we should not be making such a pother about all the time there will be, and all the further expense there will be in examining, but, if there are a big number who will again face the music, it means that a very large number of those people who have been turned down are sufficiently strong in their belief in their case as to present it again. If they have that belief, why should we prevent them presenting it again? I do suggest to Deputies that they must find an answer for that before, with an easy mind, they can vote upon this matter. They either do believe that very few will again come forward—in that case let us give them their chance; it is not [232] going to mean much time or extra trouble—or that a very big number still believe in themselves, in which case the time argument is a weighty one. But there is also the argument of justice, which is a completely overriding argument. You cannot deprive a large number of people of what they think to be their rights under the 1934 Act without causing a very large amount of dissatisfaction. You have got to weigh that against this administrative inconvenience and the possibility of an expenditure of money.

I do suggest that the truth probably lies somewhere between these two extremes. Neither is there going to be a very small number, nor these enormous numbers that the Minister talked of. We are not going to have either 3,000 or 4,000 and have it finished in half a year and we are not going to have 48,000 and have it going on for all time. The problem is somewhere in between.

Remember what we are asked to do at this moment. We are asked simply to vote for this Bill, despite the fact that so many people who stood up to talk for this Bill have also indicated the belief that grave hardship has been done to certain people. I presume they made these representations at their Party meetings and yet all they have got is this bare measure. What are we asked to do? To take that as the last and the best and the wisest word that can be said on this whole problem. In contradistinction, the Labour Party motion asks that we suspend our judgement until that group of people gets together, and gets together quickly, to see if there is any other way of meeting this situation.

Ways have been suggested. One way is that you can have a revising committee which could go through the mass of documents already accumulated and rule out those about whom, prima facie, there was no case, and then give any man about whom you had come to a conclusion in that respect, his chance, with the expense on himself of taking his case forward. But where you did find a prima facie case made in favour of any man, then you had a calculation made by a committee—and [233] most of the committee would be biased in favour of these people—accepting the sentiment behind this particular measure, but ruling on the facts also. You would then know how many you have to deal with and it would be possible for the House to decide whether we would spend more money, whether we would not have five or six commissions in different parts of the country ruling on the whole matter and so get this thing finished once and for all.

I am told there may be a sense of grievance if you had different committees in different parts of the country, because you might not have the same standard or regularity of procedure and you may have people in adjoining counties, some getting pensions and others being refused. That type of complaint has been made to Deputies. I have heard it said that certain persons were granted pensions because they had the personal backing of named individuals, while others, having behind them very much the same evidence and backing, had been turned down. What greater sense of injustice could you have than this? If you take one hundred men who have conditional orders, they are going to march back to the Referee to get their cases re-heard. They were only representatives—everybody knows that; they were not put up as individual cases. The case goes to the Referee with the same evidence as before and each man's colleagues are pushed behind because this Bill says: “You cannot go a step forward again; you will not get near the Referee to whom we promised an approach under the 1934 Act.”

Is that not going to create a terrific sense of wrong and inequality through the country? If you had different commissions operating in different parts of the country and able to relate their decisions, would there be anything like the same sense of injustice under that system as there would by leaving the system as proposed? It is not impossible to get standards regulated. We have a federal university with three colleges and it is possible to get the same standard struck in the different colleges. There is no reason [234] why committees operating all over the country in provincial areas or half-provincial areas could not get their standards so adjusted that nobody would observe any difference.

I feel myself completely and entirely detached in this matter. I have had very little trouble from people who have sought pensions under the Act. I do not think, until this measure came along, that I fully studied the Act. I saw no good accruing through me to anybody out of that. I do not believe that anything I may say here will have the effect of getting me any votes in an election, but I do think it is a scandalous business, having carried these men forward for 11 years, to come here and say that you will refuse them the single thing that the courts gave them, and that is, that those of them who, at their own risk, want to go to the Referee, will get to the Referee and will not be stopped in their progress there by some civil servant or some other type of officer. We should grant them what the courts say they should get. It is a scandal that they should not be given that slight degree of justice.

A case might be made here for reopening the whole Act, but that has not been made here. There are people who believe, or pretend to believe, that this legislation is required in order to validate the pensions. I am rather glad so much has been made of that in this debate. It means that amendments can be put in to make that clear, and even to stop the Bill at that point and to say: “We will confine the Bill to these pensions that have been granted and we will validate these.” There is no doubt that if it were confined to that, we would have passed it in a single day, unanimously. So that particular piece of propaganda and pretence disappears. Let us get down to reality. We are not concerned with the 11,000 who have got pensions, but with the 48,000 who have not got pensions but who are making their bit of a scramble to get the bare bones of the 1934 Act and to get before the person they thought they were going to get before—the Referee.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  We have heard the words “scandal” and “injustice”[235] from the last speaker, but I think we will all admit that we are getting somewhat nearer to the facts and nearer to the position that has to be dealt with than we got heretofore. The professor of constitutional law has spoken. One would imagine, if these constitutional rights which we heard about before this Bill was brought in, were threatened, that we would have heard something about these constitutional rights. That speech, which I hope to be able to answer at a later stage, is somewhat removed at any rate from the position that was taken up by the legal luminary of Mallow, who started this business about constitutional rights being affected, with the eloquent phrase: “The attitude of the Government was an outrage on the constitutional rights of the citizen.” That was followed up in another part by saying that “the proposal is a negation of the constitutional rights of the citizen and an outrage on democratic principles.” The snowball resolution went a bit further and our proposal was described as “an infringement of the constitutional rights of a large number of citizens.” In the next place it was declared that it would be “an absolute negation of democracy and would bring our constitution and our country into ridicule and contempt if the Government's reported attitude in this matter is persisted in.”

Then it went on to a county council, where we had it duly recorded:—

“We, the duly elected representatives of the people of Mayo, hereby unanimously protest against the high - handed and undemocratic attempt on the part of the Government to defeat the ends of justice in thus attempting to deprive citizens of the State of their constitutional and God-given rights.”

Later we had the president of the Cork Chamber of Commerce saying

“if the bureaucracy, backed by a subservient political majority, is to be permitted to insert sections in the Acts to remove doubts about sections in previous Acts, the whole functions of the judiciary would seem to be [236] challenged, and challenged in a particular and vital manner.”

That is the way in which this particular question has been brought before the public, and, of course, some of the gentlemen on the opposite benches thought that the background had been well painted and the ground well set for them to continue on the same lines. We had Deputy O'Higgins speaking of the unwise attempt to cheat these people of their legal rights and saying further on that it was a measure designed to see that the people concerned would not get justice and that the court's ruling would not be complied with.

It is worth while listening to what the gentleman who taunts us with acting hypocritically has to say. Just listen to this hypocritical statement and see who is the hypocrite. He says:—

“Did the Minister think that this type of tricky practice was the way to cultivate respect for Parliament? In these later years, it has been fashionable for Ministers opposite to go bleating around the country about the necessity for respect of the law, for upholding the firm tread of the law, for respect for the institutions of the State. Anybody reading these bleatings and reading this Bill would sense nothing but hollow and contemptible hypocrisy in every phrase they uttered.”

This gentleman then who is so anxious about having respect for law and respect for this institution goes on to try to stir up all the trouble and all the contempt he could in the country.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  I am only trotting after you in that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  The point is that the Deputy calls us hypocrites. I say and I assert that it is my firm conviction that the man who talks in this fashion, in the pretence that he wants respect for law and order, and who misrepresents the whole situation so as to play up to such a campaign, is deliberately trying to create disorder.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Look in the mirror.

[237]The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  “Do you think it is wise,” he says, “or safe to strike these men with the law in their teeth and Parliament in the rear, and to chuck them out through the gates of Parliament, a beaten down and divided, a tricked and cheated body of men?”

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Yes.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  The Deputy says all that.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  And means it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  And the Deputy knows that what is being done here has been done several times and was done several times during the régime of the Party opposite.

Mr. Corish:  That does not make it any better.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  It does this: It shows that the people opposite who had to bring in these measures to which I shall refer had to do so in the public interest, and that that was their plea for it. The reasons for it were sound, as I shall show in the cases to which I propose to refer. Their reasons were sound and the action taken in this particular case can be paralleled by dozens and dozens of statutes in every Legislature in the world. Dozens of cases can be shown in which, in the public interest, action such as we are taking here has been taken, and when the Deputies yonder know that, when Deputy O'Higgins knowing it, or when he should know it, comes in here and pretends that this is an exceptional matter, that it is a tricky matter, playing up to people who naturally are discontented because their applications have been turned down and trying to make these people discontented with the whole system—and I say that was his purpose in doing it— while he has that obvious evident purpose behind his action, and pretends that it is respect for the institutions of the State he has at heart, then I say that it is he, and those who play in the same way, who are the hypocrites, and not the people on these benches.

[238]Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Do you believe it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I do believe it.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  I doubt it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I do believe it fully.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  I doubt it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Well, at any rate, the professor of constitutional law has not brought in the matter of constitutional rights. He knows full well that if he dared to do it, he would be met immediately. He would not, as a lawyer, dare to do it, because he knows full well that he would be answered at once and told that this Parliament could pass all the measures it likes, but that it could not take away one tittle or jot of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution. This Parliament has to work under the Constitution, and if this Government or any other Government dared to pass an Act which was contrary to the Constitution, redress would immediately be found in the courts. Therefore, we can at least wipe out from our arguments the question of whether constitutional rights are taken away.

The next question is: are we interfering with the courts? I say we are not. The function of the courts, as everybody knows, is to interpret the law as it is, to take the expressions in the Acts and to expound them and say what they mean. It is not the function of the courts to go behind these Acts. It is not the function of the courts to say in general whether, if the wording is clear, that was the real intention or not, or whether Parliament failed to express its intentions properly. Everybody knows that is the position. The function of the courts is to state the law as it has been expressed, to say what it means. It has no interest, such as the Legislature has, in the general public good. The business of the courts is not to say what the law ought to be, but what the law is, but the function of the Legislature is to say what the law ought to be, and if the law at any time is felt by the Legislature to be contrary to the public interest in any shape of form, it is the [239] right, and in fact the duty, if it has an interest in the public good, of the Legislature to change the law.

Every time we pass an Act we change the rights of citizens and classes. Every time we pass an Act here we change some existing state of relations between citizens. If we bring in an Act, for instance, prescribing that holidays of a certain length shall be given to people and that employers are to be forced to give these holidays, before that Act was passed the employers need not do it. They had the right to deprive, if they wanted to, their workers of these rights. We take rights away by such an Act from one class and give them to another. Every time we pass an Act, then, we do in some measure change what might be regarded as existing rights. No citizen has a vested right in the law as it is. The Legislature here by its authority and because of its duty to the public interest can change an existing law at any time if it is felt to be right. It is the right and duty of the Legislature, if it is found at any time that a new law is necessary in the public interest, to pass that law, and the reason we have discussions here is to decide whether it is or is not in the public interest that it should be passed.

Very often, we all know, Acts are passed, and the expression of the intention does not always correspond with the real intention. Words have time and again been found to have a meaning which did not express the intention of those who wrote them. That is true of Parliaments just as it is true of individuals, and if at any particular time the expression of the Legislature's intention, as it finds its way into an Act of Parliament, is found to be contrary to the intention of Parliament when the Act is passed, or contrary to the public good at any subsequent time, then the Legislature has the right to change it. There is not much difference between retroactive and retrospective legislation in matters of that kind and ordinary legislation. By ordinary legislation you disturb existing rights. By retrospective legislation you do much the same thing. Naturally, unless [240] the public interest demands it, one does not have that legislation. In other words, if in any Legislature you count up the statutes that will have retroactive or retrospective effect you will find that they represent a small number of the total of Acts passed, and so it is with us. As I have said, we have had examples here both in the time of the previous régime over a period of some ten years when another Government or series of Governments, with roughly the same personnel, were in office, as well as during the last 12 or 13 years in which the present Government, or series of Governments, with roughly the same personnel, have been in office, supported by a majority in Parliament.

I will give the House a few examples. There was a case in Cork in which a judge gave to the deputy-registrar functions which, according to the Act, should have been given only to the registrar. The deputy-registrar, functioning, caused to be put into prison a bankrupt. The bankrupt appealed to the courts. A court decision was got saying that the judge had no right to give this power to the deputy-registrar, that it was a power which, in accordance with the Act, should have been given to the registrar only.

Now it was open to everybody who had in any particular way been dealt with by the deputy registrar to take similar action, but seeing that it was not in the general interest, and seeing that the delegation to the deputy was really only a matter of procedure and did not involve any question of fundamental justice, the Government of the day brought in a Bill by which it was deemed that the Act should be read so that the powers which were confined to the registrar should be given to the deputy-registrar, and other people were debarred by the Act from taking action against the judge such as had been taken. Now, why was that?

General MacEoin: Information on General Seán MacEoin  Zoom on General Seán MacEoin  Is the Taoiseach putting forward that as an analogy?

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I am putting it up as an example of where Parliament came in: where it got a decision of the [241] court and said that the decision of the court, while it indicates the law at the moment, is not going to be the law any more.

General MacEoin: Information on General Seán MacEoin  Zoom on General Seán MacEoin  Now—

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I am not giving way. I am giving this is as an example. It cannot be disputed as an example of retrospective legislation in which a decision of the court which would have involved certain consequences, if left standing, was, as far as the future was concerned, set aside, and the law as it was declared by the court to be was, by the Legislature, said to be the law no longer, not merely to be the law no longer, but it went back into the past and said that the law as interpreted by the court would have involved consequences, that these consequences would no longer follow.

That is one example. I will give the House another. There was at one particular period the question of copyright here. The case was brought, I think, against the Bray Urban Council. The people who held that they had the copyright alleged an infringement of it against the Bray Urban Council. The court of first instance decided in their favour, saying that the copyright had been infringed. The matter was appealed to the Supreme Court, and it said that there was no copyright at all existing in this State.

Therefore, there was no right at all possessed by anyone that could be infringed, and, therefore, the Supreme Court overruled the court of first instance. It would, of course, have been a rather nasty situation to find that there was no copyright here. We would be in a rather strange international situation. The public interest demanded, and the Government of the day did not hesitate to have legislation brought in that would have retrospective effect. Remember that the Supreme Court said that there was no copyright in the State. That was the Supreme Court decision. Of course, it was not an absolute Supreme Court in those days. In those days a case could be taken a step further over to the British Privy Council. However, the [242] Supreme Court in this land anyhow said that there was no copyright. What did the Government of that day do, and what did the Legislature of that day do? The Government, notwithstanding that the Supreme Court had said that there was no copyright here, passed an Act saying that there is, and there shall always be deemed to have been copyright here. That was in violation of and directly contrary to the Supreme Court decision. Were they wrong about that? Should the Executive of that day and the Legislature of that day have allowed that chaotic situation to stand, or were they to do what they had a right to do, come into Parliament and ask Parliament to set it right? Now, the only way in which they could have set this right generally was the way in which they did it. They said: “Notwithstanding that the Supreme Court has said that the law is that way, the Legislature say the law shall be deemed to have been different.” Not merely that, but they went a step further and said: “Although the law shall be deemed to have been that, nobody under the law as it is deemed to be shall be able to take action against anybody. No action may be taken against people who have violated it.” On the one hand, they said that the law should be deemed to have been something contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court and, on the other hand, they said: “The law shall be so and there shall be no redress against anybody who, under the supposed or deemed position of the law, shall have transgressed it.”

Now, is anybody going to say, or did anybody say at that time, although it was retrospective legislation of a very peculiar kind—of a unique kind, as there was a unique situation here—that the Legislature was incompetent to do that? Did anybody run around and say that under the new law, as they put it, the retrospective effect meant that certain people were being deprived of the right of action? No, there was not a large number of people concerned and there was not a large number to be appealed to, to try to bring them in on the side of a political Party. The fundamental justice of that situation was understood. There was no political Party gain in trying to misrepresent. [243] That is not the position here, apparently. Fundamentally, that type of legislation was far more drastic and far more universal in its character than the legislation proposed here. Was Parliament competent to do that? Did anybody deny that it was the duty of the Legislature in those circumstances to bring in an Act of that kind?

In our time, we had a case of a fire breaking out accidentally in a mills. This fire spread and the schools were burnt down; the owners of the schools took action under some old Accidental Fires Act of 1750 or some such date and brought the action successfully. As far as my recollection goes, it depended largely on the question as to whether a factory was a house or not. Protection was given to householders under the old Act, by which they would not be liable to their neighbours for the accidental spread of a fire. It was held that a factory was not a house and the result would have been, if the law were left in that position, that every person who had a factory from which an accidental fire spread would be held liable for the damages, in the same way as the Athlone mills were held liable to the schools' owners. That was not a proper position. It was a very old Act and factories had not developed when it was passed. It was clearly not in the public interest that the law should stand in that position.

The Legislature intervened and said that, although that has been the law, it should be the law no longer and the protection formerly given only to private houses was extended to factories. The Legislature said: “With regard to cases that are pending, they are to be voided and are to be debarred from going ahead.” People who, like the owners of the schools, had been affected by a fire were by law prevented from going to the courts to obtain damages which they would have got had Parliament not intervened. Just as is done in this case, the particular case was allowed to pass and the damages awarded to the schools, having been obtained in [244] court before the Legislature had spoken and before an announcement of the Government's intentions was made, were allowed to pass. The one bite was given, but the Legislature said that no other bites of that sort should take place. Was that action, though it had retroactive and retrospective effect, an improper action, was it ultra vires, was it against the public good? What was in that action which would call out for a declaration, such as we have here now, that it was contrary to the constitutional rights of the citizens, that it was undemocratic, that it was unfair and unjust? It was passed by this House, though it was of a retrospective character, with the full authority of the House and the concurrence of at least the majority.

I could give more examples. There was a Land Act in 1926, there was a Finance Act, there was a Courts of Justice Act. In fact, I am perfectly certain that careful study of the Finance Acts and the Land Acts would produce more examples. There is nothing strange or novel, nothing unconstitutional or undemocratic, in this action by the Government in bringing in this Bill. It is our right here to make the law conform to what we deem to be the public interest.

Every legislative act of ours in some manner or other disturbs the existing rights of individuals, and that is necessarily so, since it is an adjustment of the rights of individuals in the general public interest. I hope that I have disposed of two points so far. First of all, I repeat that there is nothing unconstitutional in what we are doing. I have said that we could not, if we tried, do anything unconstitutional, since anything that would result from that action here would be declared null and void. Secondly, I have shown that what we propose here is not anything novel or strange, it is not anything of the kind Deputy O'Higgins would like Deputies to believe it is— some subversion of rights, something that would bring Parliament into contempt. If it were such as to bring Parliament into contempt, then every Parliament in the world would have [245] been brought into contempt, as every Legislature at one time or another in its history has had to do something such as we are doing now.

Everybody knows the position of an Act of Indemnity. War situations and civil conflicts are generally followed up by Acts of Indemnity to deprive people of any redress in respect of wrongs which, under the existing state of the law, would have been deemed wrongs against them. Again, Acts of Indemnity are a necessary feature of practically every Legislature in the world at some time or another, if the Legislature in question has lived over any number of years during which there has been war or civil conflict. As I say, I hope I have demonstrated to everybody that there is nothing unconstitutional and nothing novel in what we propose to do.

The next thing is to try to deal with the misrepresentations of what we propose to do. What is it that we propose to do? Deputy McGilligan at least kept near to that point. We will have to say, at any rate, whatever views he may have expressed about the wisdom or the justice of this, he has not at any rate tried to misrepresent it in the main. What is it we are trying to do? This Bill, in its essence, is simply making valid a procedure which was adopted over a period of ten years in which some 60,000 applications were dealt with. That is what it is. It is called an amendment of the law. Why? Because the law, according to the interpretation of the Supreme Court, its interpretation of a certain phrase, is declared to be contrary to this procedure which has been followed over a number of years and has been used, and we believe fairly used, justly used, honestly used, to deal with these applications. We are simply saying that that procedure shall be deemed to have been proper procedure. We have not said so in so many words.

One would imagine that you could deal with the matter in a single phrase or two and that this apparently long, strange-looking Bill would not have been necessary. But we know that, once a decision of that sort was given [246] by the court, once the question of procedure was questioned by the court, then every one of the 60,000 who felt that the procedure did not give them everything they thought they should have got could go to the courts and, on the ground of faulty procedure, have got an order such as the orders that have been made. Were we to stand back and allow that to happen? Is it in the public interest that it should happen? Remember, the only thing that the court has said is that the procedure which has been adopted was not, in their interpretation—and we must accept that as the final judgment as to what the state of the law was— in accordance with the Act.

I am not going to make light for one moment of a departure from procedure. If a procedure was laid down in an Act and if that was the intention, or even if a court, whether it was the intention or not, declares it to have been the expressed intention anyhow, as far as can be gathered from the expression of it in an Act, I am not going to say that a departure from such procedure as indicated by an Act of Parliament is a light thing. It is not a light thing. Assuming that Parliament desired that a certain procedure should be followed and that a certain administrative or quasi-administrative judicial body was set up, then I admit at once that that procedure should not be, if the law was unmistakably clear, departed from. I only say that, as interpreted by the courts, it has been departed from. But I deny that it was departed from wilfully, neglectfully or arbitrarily. I am not going to state that I, as a layman, in this Legislature, interpreting that Act, would not have said —I shall try to prove later that the action of the Referee is supported not merely by other Referees but by independent judges—that the procedure which was adopted by the Referee was, in fact, the procedure which might very well have been the intention of Parliament. I certainly would not as a member of this Legislature and a layman—I admit I am not a lawyer— have said that, when the advisory committee were to sit with the Referee, they were to sit bodily and corporally [247] with him; I would have naturally come to the conclusion that that meant associated with him in this particular matter.

On whom is the responsibility for a decision placed in the last resort? The responsibility for a decision under that Act is based on the Referee and the Referee alone. Does anybody deny that? Nobody can deny it, because it has been set out clearly, it is well understood, and it has never been questioned by any of the applicants in the court that the Referee was the final judge in determining whether a case came within the law and whether a pension should be awarded or not. Is it a strange thing for me as a layman to say that sitting with them did not mean corporally sitting with them, sitting with them in the one room? I say that the position of these was that of assessors in the main, that that was the real intention of Parliament. I am not able to go back to know what my view of this was at the time; I have no means of knowing it. I had some of the debates here looked up to see what was the intention of Parliament at the time. Remember that Legislatures often pass laws which have consequences very different from the consequences anticipated and that if these consequences go in a direction very different from what was expected, the Legislature has a right to amend the law so that it will go in the direction which was intended. If I as a layman had been asked: “What is your view of that provision,” I would have said that it did not mean that the committee had necessarily to sit corporally with the Referee. I would have said that this advisory group, on account of the manner in which they were set up, had nothing whatever to say to the decision of the Referee, that the Referee could turn a deaf ear to every suggestion that they made to him; that he could have ignored every suggestion that they made to him and still fulfil his duties under the Act. The decision was his. They were to advise and to help him. If a person is given advisers or helpers, that person expects to have some discretion as to how the help should be given to him [248] so as to produce the best results. And if the Referee considered that at a certain time they could best help him in the proper discharge of his duties by dividing themselves, say, into two groups and sending their recommendations to him on paper, on a file, then he would be justified in so arranging it.

Of course, the Supreme Court has given a decision and it is only concerned with the interpretation of the law as it is. It is not the concern of the Supreme Court or of any court what are to be the consequences to any large extent of its decision. The court may say what is the plain, unambiguous meaning of the phrase. They will say to themselves: “We have no need to speculate as to what is the intention of Parliament. We have only to interpret the phrase that is there and, if that interpretation is not in accordance with the intention of Parliament and is not in accordance with the general good, then it is not our business as a court to set that right. There is a way in which it can be set right and, because there is a way”—the way we are adopting—“then we as judges will keep to our own proper job, which is to interpret the law as we find it and not to try to think how the law should be, either to be practicable in its application or otherwise to be for the general good.” They naturally say to themselves: “To do that would be a usurpation on our part.” And it would be. Everybody knows what the court's duty is. Everybody should know, and many of the people who are pretending that they do not know, know full well what is the duty and on whom the duty lies to look after the general public interest and to right the law if the law is wrong.

Although the court has said in this year, 1945, that what was intended by Parliament was that he should sit corporally with the rest of the advisory committee, I say that until that decision was given it was open to every Referee that we have had to take the view that he did take. I want you to remember that these referees were judges—most of them. These were [249] judges who had some knowledge of how to construe statutes and the principles that underlie constructions of that sort. These three judges, independently, having a practical task to perform, naturally took the most liberal view of the statute, which was of a beneficial character, so as to enable their work to be performed in the public interest with the greatest expedition that was consistent with fair play to all the claimants.

It is said by the Deputies opposite that we should have a full court, that we should have a hearing approximating to that of a court. I say that was never intended by the Act. There was no provision made for the absence of some members of the Advisory Committee, no provision made for a quorum, nothing in fact which would indicate that it was the intention of the Legislature to have it set up as a court. If it had been set up strictly as a court, and if full court procedure had to be adopted, I say we would be all dead and buried, and most of the claimants too, before the 60,000 cases could have been adjudicated upon.

I was called as a witness in one case and I must say I was surprised when I found that the Referee himself was sitting with the Advisory Committee as if it were a court, with lawyers pleading the case. That case, in which I was a witness, lasted, I think, three days for the hearing. It took the Advisory Committee more than a month to analyse the evidence that was given by the witnesses and to send in their report. I do not want to pretend that they did nothing else in that time but, although this was a case in which it was desirable that a decision would be reached as quickly as possible, this one case, with the court procedure that seemed to have been adopted in that one case, took three days for hearing and a month for the Advisory Committee to analyse the evidence and present their report to the Referee.

It has been suggested by Deputy McGilligan that all these figures are nonsense, that we have a very simple case here to deal with. I say we have not. We have an extremely complex [250] and difficult matter to deal with. The whole of these pensions was an extremely difficult thing to deal with. He says the years that have been suggested are exaggerated. Very well. A simple little calculation will help us to get, at any rate, some idea of the time. I will admit that we have to go on rough averages. Suppose we say that this Advisory Committee with the Referee were able to dispose of ten cases a day—and I should like to see how many courts in the land will dispose of anything like complicated matters at the rate of ten cases a day —and suppose we make this Referee a particularly healthy vigorous man, and all the members of the Advisory Committee equally healthy, and not likely to be ill or anything of that sort, and that they sat for six days a week, and suppose we give them, say, a fortnight's holiday in the year, that will give us, say, 300 working days. At ten cases a day, that means that you dispose of something like 3,000 cases in a year, and 60,000 cases to be disposed of would mean that they would be 20 years in dealing with them.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  That is terrible.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  All right. The Deputy will tell us that some of these cases were easy and some difficult.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  Deputy Moran says that none of them will come forward.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  The Deputy does not know how many cases there will be. I wish there were some gentleman here who could authoritatively tell us how many cases.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  You have two of them behind you to say.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I do not mind what people say. I want to deal with the case as I find it. I say the fact is that if you take ten cases a day and put the committee working for 300 days in the year they will have disposed of only 3,000 cases in that year and there are 60,000 cases. That, at least to me, means that you want 20 years to do it. That is 20 years anyhow—20 years [251] added to the ten. If I were getting a pension, I for one do not expect that I would be here in 20 years. Quite a large number of the people who would be entitled to these pensions, if they had to wait for 20 years more to take them would be in their graves by that time. Pensions would be of very much use to them then!

There is, and there was, a very practical problem in trying to deal with all these cases. I got from the Minister a full account of the procedure which has been adopted and I have asked him, for the information of the House, to put that procedure in a White Paper so that that procedure might be here for everybody to see. I am perfectly certain that any fairminded man seeing that procedure will have to admit that it was a fair and just procedure, calculated to do the job which had to be done. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.

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